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Protecting friends and family from scams - latest advice from Consumer Direct
Consumer Direct is today advising people how to recognise if friends and relatives are falling victim to scams such as bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draws and fake psychic mailings as part of Scams Awareness Month which kicked off this week.
Every year, an estimated three million people in the UK fall victim to scams sent by post, email, text, the phone and internet, losing an average of £850 each. Although people from all age groups can become victims, research shows that older people are the most likely to be targeted and lose the most money.
Scams can have a devastating effect on people's lives with many repeat victims losing their life savings and suffering ill health. The knock-on effects can also have a profound impact on victims' families.
Someone regularly falling for mass market scams may:
* receive a lot of junk mail
* have a house full of cheap-looking goods such as jewellery and health products
* receive regular phone calls from strangers
* become secretive when discussing finances with family and friends
Michele Shambrook, Operations Manager for Consumer Direct said: 'The scammers are becoming increasingly clever and sophisticated and it's all too easy to get taken in. If you think a friend or relative may be falling victim, ask questions, offer reassurance and advice, but try not to criticise as this may do more harm than good.'
Throughout February, Consumer Direct and the Office of Fair Trading are running a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of mass market scams.
TV presenter Angela Rippon, who launched Scams Awareness Month at an event in London on Monday said: 'Scammers use psychological techniques to gain vulnerable people's trust. They exploit fear and insecurity to steal as much money as they can from those who can least afford it. Though anyone can fall victim to a scam it is often the oldest that are hit the hardest.'
Information on the most common scams and advice on how to avoid them is available on the Consumer Direct website at http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk or by calling 08454 04 05 06.
* A photo of Angela Rippon launching Scams Awareness Month is available on request.
* The OFT research on the impact of mass marketed scams, published in December 2006 can be found at: http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/consumer_protection/oft883.pdf
* An OFT guide for carers and care professionals can be found at: http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/consumer_leaflets/general/oft972.pdf
* A new OFT DVD called 'Scams, Don't Let Them Con You' which features Angela Rippon is available free of charge by calling 0800 389 3158 and quoting reference OFT 1053
* Consumer Direct received more than 7,000 reports in the last year through its dedicated scams reporting webpage. The top five reported scams were 1. Deceptive prize draws/ sweepstakes 2. Bogus foreign lotteries 3. Advance fee fraud 4. Homeworking/ business opportunity scams 5. Property/ land investment scams.
* Consumer Direct is a telephone and online consumer advice service funded by government and managed by the Office of Fair Trading. It operates in partnership with local authority Trading Standards Services to offer consumers clear, practical and impartial advice and information.
* Consumer Direct has around 400 trained advisors in 12 contact centres across England, Wales and Scotland.
* The information and advice helpline is available on a single national telephone number - 08454 04 05 06 from 0800 - 1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900 - 1300 Saturday, excluding bank holidays and public holidays.
* A Welsh-speaking Consumer Direct service is available on 08454 04 05 05. Minicom users should call 08451 28 13 84.
* Calls to the Consumer Direct 0845 numbers are charged at no more than four pence per minute from a BT landline and may be free depending on your call plan. Call charges from other landline providers or mobile phones may vary. Please check the rate with your phone service provider.
* Northern Ireland has its own service called ConsumerLine (available on 08456 00 62 62) which is similar to Consumer Direct.