As part of Scams Awareness Month (May) Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service is warning about fraudsters preying on hard-up households.
Scams Awareness Month
Fraud offences in England and Wales rose by 25% in 2013, compared to the previous year, with 207,252 cases reported to Action Fraud. Nationally Citizens Advice has calculated up to four million people could be scammed each year as many scams go unreported.
This includes a recent case in Northamptonshire where a Kettering resident has been receiving piles of scam mail every day and has sent up to £3,000 to fraudsters thinking that he will win money through a bogus lottery or win prizes of flat screen TVs or computers from businesses targeting him.
People are just as likely to be conned over the phone and via text messages as they are through emails and websites. New analysis reveals:
- Over a third of scams (34%) were over the phone.
- Almost a quarter of scams (24%) were through visits to a website.
- 16% were letter or fax scams.
- One in ten scams (10%) were through emails.
Trading Standards is warning that people should watch out for non-secure websites that ask for financial details. It’s important that people realise scammers are also at the end of the phone and on their doorstep.
Counterfeit cashier cheques, fraudulent lenders offering loans to get hold of personal details, dating scams, ticket cons and computer hacking were amongst commonly reported scams. Online shopping and auction fraud was the biggest single fraud type with almost 40,000 recorded cases.
County council cabinet member for Public Protection, Strategic Infrastructure & Economic Growth Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “Our trading standards team work hard to protect county residents and businesses from becoming victims of a scam.
“They are committed to protecting the most vulnerable from the many different scams out there, whether they are being targeted by phone, through emails, through the post, online and even by fax as well as on their doorstep.
“Trading standards is also working with adult social care, Age UK, Victim Support and Northamptonshire Police to identify potential victims of scams and intervene to provide support to prevent further victimisation.
“If you think that you might have been affected by a scam, please contact trading standards by calling the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or online advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk”
Trading Standards Institute (TSI) chief executive, Leon Livermore, said:
"Trading standards are on the frontline when it comes to protecting vulnerable people from these scams. Their work makes it tough for scammers to get through to the country's most vulnerable.
"Scams Awareness Month gives trading standards and partners like Citizens Advice the opportunity to reach out to those most at risk from scammers, and educate them and members of the community as to how to avoid falling victim to these insidious schemes."
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“Scammers are picking the pockets of millions of innocent people. Pensioners and hard-up households face invasion through their computers, phones, letterboxes, and on the doorstep.
“People who are already struggling to put food on the table, let alone save money day-to-day, are being fleeced of their hard-earned cash. It is disgraceful that scammers are often targeting elderly people with sophisticated scams such as posing as their bank or phone company. We are running Scams Awareness Month to encourage people to fight back against the fraudsters pushing their cons into the nation’s homes by reporting those scams.”
Top tips for dealing with scams
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
- Never give out your bank details or send money unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you.
- Contacted out of the blue? Be suspicious.
- Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card, ask for your PIN or come to your home.
- Make sure the website’s secure, if you are buying online – check for the padlock or “https” next to the web address
- It you haven’t bought a ticket you can’t win it.
- You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize.
- Pressure to make a decision straight away? Take your time and just say: “No thank you”.
- Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
- Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
- Don’t suffer in silence – tell others about scams.
What to do if you have been scammed
- Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
- Often you can't get your money back if you've been scammed, especially if you've handed over cash.
- If you've paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
- Get advice and report scams to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or online advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk
Scams to watch out for
- Online shopping and auction scams – internet shoppers get lured into buying phantom cars, mobile phones, pets or anything else you can buy online. Scammers use a range of tricks including bogus websites, spoofed payment services and a nasty new variation called “second chance offers” tempting losing bidders with bogus opportunities. Online property market places are also infiltrated by scammers harvesting legitimate property details and posing as landlords.
- Lender loan fraud – some scammers pose as payday lenders or credit brokers and after they have obtained someone’s details they pass these on, or take out sums without the person’s knowledge or consent.
- Online dating scams – con artists groom victims into long-distance relationships using emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. Once they are confident of the victim’s trust, scammers will tell them about a problem they are experiencing and ask for financial help.
- Software scams – fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it gives a mask of legitimacy to their cruel schemes. Methods include asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of operating systems, stealing personal information, and installing malware before charging to remove it.
- Courier scams (a form of vishing) – where people receive unsolicited telephone calls from scammers posing as police or their bank warning of a fraudulent payment on their card or that their card is due to expire. The fraudster will then attend the person’s address or send an innocent courier company driver to collect the card and sometimes provide them with a “replacement” fake card.
Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.