26 June 2015

Northamptonshire Trading Standards is calling on residents to expose scams and help stop more people from falling prey to clever cons that fleece them of thousands of pounds.

Scams Awareness Month launches on Wednesday 1st July and this year’s campaign aims to highlight how scams continue to flourish when people stay silent.

Speak out

Figures show that less than five per cent of victims report scams to the authorities, and Northamptonshire County Council’s Trading Standards officers are encouraging residents to report suspicious activities and get advice if they think they’ve been conned.

Scams come in every form, from doorstep double-glazing sales to online investment offers. People may be targeted with ‘vishing’ calls where a fraudster impersonates their bank to collect their bank details, or by bogus companies offering computer services.

Online scams include dodgy job adverts and offers for goods and services, while mail scams may ask victims to pay a fee in order to claim their winnings from a prize draw they haven’t entered.

Don't be rushed

The Scams Awareness Month campaign is asking people to keep two things in mind when they receive an unsolicited approach or when they are looking for goods or services: don’t be rushed and don’t be hushed.

People should take their time to make a decision and get their facts together before parting with their money or personal information, and speak out when they think they’ve spotted a scam.

Cllr André González de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection, said: “Scams thrive on silence. Fraudsters know that victims are often too ashamed to share what happened to them, meaning that scams can continue to spread unchecked.

“We’re urging people to lift the lid on scams and start talking about suspicious email, junk mail, online ads or door-to-door sellers operating in their area.

“Scams are run by professional con artists and it can be very hard to know what to look out for. Our advice is that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“If you’re contacted out of the blue be on your guard, and never give your bank details out unless you are certain you know who the person is, and that you can trust them. If you think you have been scammed, contact Citizens Advice for help and report it to Trading Standards by calling Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.”

Raising awareness

Northamptonshire Trading Standards officers work in partnership with the police and charity Age UK Northamptonshire to raise awareness of scams, particularly among vulnerable and elderly people.

Laura Jones, Prevention Manager for Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There are a number of scams in circulation and we would urge people to be mindful of this when opening emails and letters or taking a phone call from a cold caller.

“We fully support the aims of Scams Awareness Month to reduce the harm caused by these types of mass marketing fraud.”

Martin Lord, of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Northamptonshire, said: “As an advice agency that supports thousands of people each year, we know the devastating impact being the victim of a scam can have, so our message is clear – be aware, be vigilant and even if the worse happens, come forward and take advice because the help is out there.”

Common scams

Common scams to watch out for:

  • Pensions scams - Phrases such as “one-off investment opportunities”, “free pension reviews”, “legal loopholes”, “cash bonus”, “up-front cash sum”, “government endorsement”, “pension liberation,” are commonly used in pension scams. The initial approach is often an out-of-the-blue phone call, text or email or even sometimes a doorstep caller. Or it could be via an imitation website. Scammers may offer early access to pension pots for people aged under 55 even though this is only possible in exceptional circumstances.
  • 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 “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.
  • Investment fraud – also called “boiler room” scams because of the high pressure sales technique employed. Shares remain the most common product offered, but they also ask for investment in carbon credits, land, and rare earth metals.
  • Dating scams – using online dating websites scammers 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.