Office of Fair Trading
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TV 'S ANGELA RIPPON BACKS OFT SCAMS AWARENESS MONTH 'Scamnesty' launch as new figures reveal top scams
The OFT today launches its 2009 Scams Awareness Month to raise awareness of mass marketed scams, which cost the UK public £3.5billion a year. Every year an estimated three million UK consumers fall victim to scams sent by post, email, text, the phone and internet.
This year's Awareness Month in February kicks off with a nationwide 'Scamnesty', run in partnership with nearly 90 Local Authority Trading Standards Services, which calls on consumers to drop scam mailings they have received into designated 'Scamnesty' bins or boxes at local libraries and public areas across the country. The information collected will help the OFT and enforcement partners to identify and develop strategies to combat the worst scammers. A similar campaign was a great success last year, collecting more than 15,000 mailings.
TV personality Angela Rippon is in Westminster today to back the OFT campaign and stars in a new DVD, also being launched today, highlighting common scams and showing how to protect vulnerable groups in society including the elderly from scammers. Elderly scams victims are likely to lose nearly twice as much as others. Such victims are often socially isolated, over-trusting or in declining mental health and repeatedly targeted by scammers.
The campaign launch is accompanied by the release of new figures from Consumer Direct, the national advice centre operated by the OFT, that reveal the most complained-about scams. These were compiled from more than 7,000 reports in the last year through its dedicated scams reporting website.
The top five reported scams are:
1) Deceptive Prize draws/ sweepstakes
2) Bogus foreign lotteries
3) Advance fee fraud
4) Homeworking/ business opportunity scams
5) Property/ land investment scams
Commenting about the Scams Awareness Campaign Angela Rippon 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 always the oldest that are hit the hardest.'
John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said:
'Scammers are sophisticated at targeting people who are often the most vulnerable in society. As we enter tougher economic times it is more important than ever for people to be alert to prevent themselves, or friends, families and neighbours from falling victim to these heartless money-making schemes.'
Gareth Thomas, Minister for Trade, Development and Consumer
'Scammers cause deep anguish to their victims. Anyone can be targeted by these criminals, but those most at risk are often the elderly and vulnerable in our society. Only a small percentage of victims report these scams. But with the whole community keeping a look out we will be better able to beat the bogus sellers that give honest business a bad name and cost the UK billions of pounds each year.'
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive, Trading Standards Institute, said:
'The Trading Standards Institute and Local Authority Trading Standards Services across the country are supporting the Office of Fair Trading's Scams Awareness Month to help tackle scams. We urge people to be on their guard all year round for unexpected letters, emails, texts and telephone calls with seemingly tempting offers. We ask you to stop, think and also ask yourself 'What's in it for them?'
For information on your nearest library and how to take part in 'Scamnesty' see http://www.oft.gov.uk/oft_at_work/consumer_initiatives/scamnesty/
1. The OFT is warning consumers to be vigilant during the economic downturn as scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at using techniques to exploit personal and economic difficulties.
2. The OFT's advice to consumers who receive a possible scam offer is: 'Stop, think, and think again'. Do not be rushed into sending off money to someone you do not know. How likely is it that you have been specifically chosen for this offer? Millions of people are likely to have received the same offer. Think again - read the mailing carefully. If you are unsure, speak to family or friends and seek advice.
3. If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or you suspect a scam, call Consumer Direct for clear, practical consumer advice on 08454 04 05 06 or see the Consumer Direct website. Consumers can report a scam at http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/reportascam.
4. Scams Awareness Month is part of an annual international initiative organised by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network. The OFT has enlisted the support of Local AuthorityTrading Standards Services, Consumer Direct, and other consumer and industry bodies.
5. The local Authority Trading Standards Services taking part in
Scamnesty are Bexley Trading Standards, Blackburn with Darwen
Borough Council, Bolton Trading Standards, Bracknell-Forest
Trading Standards, Brent & Harrow Trading Standards Service,
Brighton and Hove City Council, Bromley Trading Standards,
Cambridgeshire County Council Trading Standards, Ceredigion County
Council, City of York Trading Standards, Clackmannanshire Trading
Standards, Cumbria Trading Standards, Darlington Trading
Standards, Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment (N.
Ireland), Devon County Council, Doncaster Trading Standards,
Dudley Trading Standards, Dundee City Council, Durham Trading
Standards, Ealing Council Trading Standards, East Dunbartonshire
Trading Standards, East Lothian Council, East Renfrewshire Council
trading standards, East Riding, East Sussex Trading Standards,
Essex County Council Trading Standards, Fife Council Environmental
Services, Gateshead Trading Standards, Greenwich Trading
Standards, Hampshire County Council, Hartlepool Borough Council,
Havering Trading Standards, Hounslow Trading Standards, Isle of
Wight Trading Standards, Kingston upon Hull City Council Trading
Standards, Kent Trading Standards, Knowsley Trading
Lancashire Trading Standards Service, Leicestershire Trading Standards Service, Lincolnshire County Council Trading Standards Service, London Borough of Camden, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Manchester Trading Standards, Medway Trading Standards, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Midlothian Trading Standards, Milton Keynes Trading Standards, Monmouthshire County Council Trading Standards, Newport Trading Standards, Norfolk Trading Standards, North Ayrshire Council, North East Lincolnshire Trading Standards, North Lanarkshire Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Oldham Trading Standards, Perth and Kinross Council's Trading Standards Service, Plymouth City Council, Portsmouth Trading Standards, Powys Trading Standards, Reading Trading Standards, Richmond Trading Standards, Rochdale Trading Standards, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Sandwell Trading Standards, Scottish Highlands TSD, Sefton Trading Standards, Shropshire Trading Standards, Slough Trading Standards, South Gloucestershire Trading Standards, South Lanarkshire Trading Standards, Southampton City Council, South Ayrshire, Trading Standards, St Helens Trading Standards, Stirling Trading Standards, Stoke Trading Standards, Suffolk Trading Standards, Surrey Trading Standards, Swansea City Trading Standards, Swindon Trading Standards, Telford & Wrekin Trading Standards, Tower Hamlets, Trading Standards, Walsall Trading Standards, Wandsworth Trading Standards, West Berkshire Trading Standards, West Lothian Council, Westminster Trading, Standards Service, West Sussex Trading Standards, Wirral Trading Standards, Wokingham Borough Council.