May 1st 2014
Today saw the launch of Scams Awareness Month by Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and the Trading Standards Institute. Throughout May, the organisations are urging people to “fight back against the fraudsters”.
As people across the country struggle to make ends meet, they are falling prey to fraudsters, say the organisations, with the elderly and desperate people with squeezed finances being especially victimised.
Fraud offences in England and Wales rose by 25% in 2013 over the previous year, with 207,252 cases reported to Action Fraud and the police. However, up to four million people may be scammed every year as scams go unreported, says Citizens Advice.
The internet is a favourite place for scammers to operate, according to statistics:
– Almost a quarter of scams (24%) were through visits to a web site
– One in ten scams (10%) were through emails
– Over a third of scams (34%) were over the phone
– 16% were letter or fax scams
This indicates that as well as being on their guard for fake websites that ask for financial details and phishing emails, people should also watch out for scammers operating at the end of the phone and on their doorstep.
Counterfeit cashier cheques, fraudulent lenders offering loans in order to obtain personal details, dating scams, ticket scams and computer hacking were amongst commonly reported scams. The most prevalent single type of fraud concerned online shopping and auction sites, with almost 40,000 recorded cases.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, 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. Every day Citizens Advice staff and volunteers hear from people who have lost out after being tricked. 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.”
Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, 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."
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.