Scams are smart, but prove you’re smarter and put any scam mail you receive in the bin! Isle of Wight Trading Standards Service is concentrating on making people aware that there are scam mail victims within our community some of whom are chronic sufferers.
That’s the advice during ‘Scamnesty’ - part of an annual national campaign run by the Office of Fair Trading in partnership with Isle of Wight Trading Standards, which sees February designated as ‘Scam Awareness Month’ (1-28th February).
Mass marketed scams and bogus, fraudulent offers can take a range of forms and are sent by post, telephone or email. Fake lottery and prize draw wins, bogus psychic predictions, get-rich-quick schemes, cons and ‘miracle’ health cures are just some of the tricks used by scammers to make people to part with their money. Although anyone can fall for a scam, the elderly and vulnerable are more likely to be targeted.
Trading Standards is reminding people to follow this advice to avoid falling victim to scammers:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Pass on the warnings. Tell your friends and family if you discover a scam. Your actions may help protect others from becoming a scam victim.
Never part with any money to obtain a prize, or give out your bank, credit card details or passwords. Trustworthy firms will never contact you to ask for this information.
Don’t be fooled by official looking websites and marketing materials. Scammers are very good at making their scams look authentic.
Scammers don’t like to give you time to think. They will try to pressure you into making a decision by telling you that if you don’t act now, you’ll miss out. Resist any pressure to make a decision right away.
Refuse to be a Scam Victim in 2011 Bin It!
Office of Fair Trading (OFT) research estimates that nearly half of adults in the UK have been targeted by a scam, collectively losing a total of £3.5billion every year, but fewer than 5% of victims report the scam to the authorities either through embarrassment or not knowing how to report incidents.
This year the Trading Standards Service is concentrating on making people aware that there are scam mail victims within our community some of whom are chronic sufferers.
A chronic scam mail victim is someone who repeatedly falls for scams. This could be because they are over trusting, socially isolated or suffering from a mental incapacity such as confusion, memory loss or dementia. However this does not mean that they are gullible or greedy. Some just want to improve their financial situation. Chronic victims refuse to believe they are being scammed and spend most of their time reading, sorting and replying to scam letters. Quite often chronic victims will shun their family’s advice and keep responding to scams. Sometimes, clairvoyant scammers try and turn chronic victims against their families. An indication that someone is suffering in this way is that they will receive a large amount of mail on a regular basis, perhaps daily.
This is a serious problem. In 2008, 22,000 vulnerable people replied with cash to one scam mail shot in one day, sending a total of £500,000. This Service, in partnership with other organisations and services, has been helping local residents who are scam mail victims. However victims who are deeply involved will need ongoing support, not just one-off visits, to break their habit. But the long journey to help them is worthwhile, despite the frustrations and set-backs along the way.
The investigation of the scams is very time consuming. Cases can last months. Recently the Metropolitan Police working with Royal Mail, Spring Global Mail, and trading standards offices across the country have seized thousands of items of scam mail aimed at people in the UK. As well as the mail seizure, five return addresses or “virtual offices” in London identified as part of the scam process are being shut down and searched for criminal evidence.
If you are unsure of an offer, speak to family or friends, or even an accountant or solicitor if big sums of money are involved. If you know someone who receives a lot of mail you can help them. For advice contact the Isle of Wight Council Trading Standards Service on Tel: 823370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.
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