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Consumers encouraged to expose scam artists

Consumers encouraged to expose scam artists

Category: Money

Updated: 01/02/2011
First Published: 01/02/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Consumers are being urged to help expose con-artists, as new figures show that many people are still falling for money scams.

Research by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that one in 20 people lost money to a scam last year, with the majority saying the realistic nature of the con was the top reason for handing over cash.

Of those who reported falling victim to a money scam, 7% lost more than £4,000.

Almost four in ten (39%) people who lost money to a scam in the last 12 months were a victim of a money transfer or advance fee scam.

The cons work by duping people into handing over their bank details or paying an up-front fee by leading them to believe they are entitled to an inheritance, donating to charity or even helping release funds from a corrupt country.

People being conned into handing their money over to participate in prize draws and sweepstakes was also a common complaint.

The research reveals the scale of the problem with mass-marketed scams in Britain, which arrive by post, email, text, phone or the internet and aim to con people into parting with their cash.

People that suspect they have being targeted are being encouraged to drop scam mailings they have received into 'Scamnesty' bins or boxes at local libraries and public areas across the country.

Eighty-six local authority Trading Standards Services (TSS) have signed up to the scheme as part of this year's Scams Awareness Month.

You can see participating TSS' at

"Scams can have a devastating impact on people's lives," said Esther Rantzen, who is supporting the campaign.

"The conmen often deliberately target older people or people who are especially vulnerable. Stigma or embarrassment can wrongly make victims think they are to blame, and discourage them from reporting these crimes or seeking help.

"No-one should feel like this. I want people to feel able to speak to their friends, family and neighbours so that we can put these con-artists out of business."

The OFT has released the following advice for people who think they may be a target of a money scam:

  • Stop, think and be sceptical. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • Do not be rushed into sending off money to someone you do not know, however plausible they might sound and even where an approach is personalised.
  • Ask yourself how likely it is that you have been especially chosen for this offer - thousands of other people will probably have received the same offer.
  • Think about how much money you could lose from replying to a potential scam - it's not a gamble worth taking.
  • If you are unsure of an offer, speak to family or friends and seek advice from Consumer Direct before sending any money or giving out any banking or credit card details.

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