Get advice, report it and tell others about it – that’s the advice being issued as part of a new campaign to raise awareness of scams.
Northamptonshire County Council Trading Standards is working with Citizens Advice on the campaign, launched to coincide with this month’s National Scams Awareness Month which aims to help stop people falling prey to scams.
Trading Standards has supported more than 500 scam victims since the launch of a new multi-agency approach with the National Scams Team, Northamptonshire Police and Age UK Northamptonshire was adopted in September 2014.
National research by Citizens Advice shows scammers are using a variety of tactics to get people to part with their cash, with people losing an average of £2,500.
Scam methods include vishing whereby scammers cold-call people in a bid to get their bank details, and offers of fake services, such as telling people their computer has a virus which they can fix remotely.
Investment scams carried the highest price tag, with people investing in fake diamonds or bogus stocks and shares losing of on average £20,000 each.
Martin Lord Chief Executive of Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice said: “Scams are not a minor blight, they heap misery on people and in some cases can lead to financial ruin.
“Fraudsters use sophisticated techniques to con people and because they vary their methods, it can be tricky to spot when something is a scam. If you come across something that seems suspicious, seek advice so you don’t put yourself at risk.
“It’s vital to report scams and spread the word so we can clampdown on con artists and stop others falling into the same traps.”
Eight common scams reported to Citizens Advice are:
1. Investment - victims are persuaded to invest money into fake ventures and are then unable to get their money back.
2. Fake services - people are offered a service for a fee, only to find the service isn’t real or doesn’t exist at all. Examples include, offers to fix computers remotely and fake invoices for advertising.
3. Phishing - con-artists cold-call people pretending to be a legitimate company, asking for credit or debit card details - for example on the pretence that they need to refund overpaid bills.
4. Doorstep selling - victims are offered goods door-to-door or from the back of a van, which are likely to be counterfeit. Fraudsters selling mattresses, “fresh” fish and cleaning products were all reported to Citizens Advice.
5. Upfront payment or fee - fraudsters ask for a payment in advance for a service or product that never materialises, such as asking for a fee to get a loan, or to pay for a training course to secure a job.
6. Premium rate texts - victims inadvertently agree to receive premium rate texts about games or competitions, usually costing around £4 each.
7. Counterfeit goods - people buy goods at marketplaces or online that turn out to be counterfeit or even stolen. Common products include cigarettes, shoes and clothing, and tickets for events.
8. Goods not received - people place orders for goods which don’t arrive. Scams are often carried out through social media and online auction sites.
Trading Standards advises people not to deal with anyone who cold calls either on the doorstep or by mail or telephone.
'Spread the word'
County council cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage said: “We are urging Northamptonshire residents to spread the word about scams and expose the tactics of fraudsters to protect others.
“If the call, letter, e-mail or text has come out of the blue then it is likely to be a scam and should be reported to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.”