Posted: Friday 19th May 2017
Scams are schemes to con people out of their money. They can arrive by post, phone call, text message or email, or from someone coming to your home. It is estimated that £9.7billion is lost to personal fraud or scams per year, with only around 5% of incidents being reported.
This type of fraud can be very sophisticated and it is easy to be tricked. Scammers can be extremely convincing and use a number of techniques to con people out of their hard earned cash. This may include fake lotteries, clairvoyants, prize draws, unexpected inheritances, people phoning to tell you that you are owed money through PPI, or people claiming to be from computer companies who suggest that there is a problem with your computer that they can fix for you. Watch our video guide to the top tips you can follow to avoid getting scammed.
Consumers are targeted very carefully, and once they respond, their details are sold on to other companies to exploit. This results in some people being inundated with over 50 items of mail daily that promise guaranteed winnings and money for life. They include fake lotteries, clairvoyants, and prize draws where goods have to be purchased from a catalogue in order to receive the “winnings”. Postal scams are estimated to cost UK consumers £10bn per year.
Guy Pratt, Deputy Director for Community Protection at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Scams are not a minor blight, they heap misery on people and in some cases can lead to financial ruin.
“People often don’t realise or want to accept that they’re being scammed, so it’s important for us to raise awareness of the tactics scammers use.
“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.”
Hertfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards team is working hard to protect vulnerable people from scams. This work includes delivering training with Royal Mail to help Hertfordshire’s postal workers identify individuals being targeted with postal scams and installing and monitoring call-blockers on scam victims’ phones to prevent nuisance callers.
If anyone has been scammed, think someone has tried to scam them, or know of someone responding to a scam they should:
- Phone the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06. They can pass scam details on to Trading Standards.
- Phone Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk/contact-us
- Warn someone – educate a friend, neighbour or relative about the dangers of scams.
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 doesn’t exist. Examples include offers to fix computers remotely.
3. Vishing - 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 markets or online that turn out to be counterfeit or even stolen. Common counterfeit 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.
For more information visit the county council’s website at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/scams