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Be on your guard – don’t fall for unscrupulous fraudsters

4:50 pm, Thursday, 15th December 2022 - 2 years ago

General

It is estimated that the UK loses between £130bn and £190bn a year to fraud and that fraud is on the rise.

People in the UK are ripped off and lose hundreds and even thousands of pounds to rogue traders and con artists who make a living by deceiving others.

The impacts of COVID, the Ukraine war, rising inflation and living costs mean that those drivers of fraud are increasing.

North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards team receive reports of vulnerable people being approached by doorstep callers, and unsolicited phone calls attempting to gain access to passwords and banking details on their personal computers.

Scams come in all forms, from cold callers and advertisements, to emails and texts. They often target older people and other vulnerable residents.

There have been various COVID-related scams circulating across the country since the pandemic began.

Criminals have been exploiting fears about the pandemic to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.

Other common scams can include pyramid selling, lotteries, phishing, electricity meter credit and payment protection insurance (PPI) reclaim scams and inheritance scams.

Councillor Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for safer and stronger communities, said: “People from all walks of life are conned because scammers are keen to prey on anyone. Those who are struggling to find work or battling with money problems are considered easy targets. Opportunistic con artists are targeting people who have fallen on hard times with offers of phoney jobs, bogus training and dodgy debt advice. We know these cheats are clever and always on the lookout for dubious new activities. Our advice is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“There are many ways to be scammed but these few tips will help you prevent it: Never give out contact details like your name, phone number or address to strangers or to people who should have this information already, never give financial information or details of your identity, bank accounts or credit card to strangers or to the businesses that should already hold your details.”

Familiarise yourself with the complexities of fraud, the signs, and how to report a suspected instance of fraud. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. You can complete the Friends Against Scams awareness session and help to raise awareness throughout your community.

If you think you have been scammed report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or online at www.adviceguide.org.uk

What to do if you have been scammed

  • Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
  • Often you can’t always get your money back if you’ve been scammed, especially if you’ve handed over cash.
  • If you’ve paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
  • Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or online at www.adviceguide.org.uk

Signs of a scam

  • The call, letter, e-mail or text has come out of the blue.
  • You’ve never heard of the lottery or competition they are talking about.
  • You didn’t buy a ticket – so can’t win.
  • They are asking you to send money in advance.
  • They are saying that you have to respond quickly, so you don’t get time to think about it or ask family and friends before you decide.
  • They are telling you to keep it a secret.
  • They seem to be offering you something for nothing.
  • If it seems too good to be true – it probably is.

How to protect yourself better

  • Never give out contact details like your name, phone number or address to strangers or to people who should have this information already.
  • Never give financial information or details of your identity, bank accounts or credit card to strangers or to the businesses that should already hold your details.
  • Shred anything with your personal or bank details on – don’t just throw it away.
  • If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You.”
  • Resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
  • Never send money to someone you don’t know.
  • Walk away from job adverts that ask for money in advance.
  • Ask friends, neighbours or family about whether an offer is likely to be a scam.

Common scams

Lotteries — a phone call, text or email proclaims a huge lottery win – even though the receiver hasn’t bought a ticket. In order to collect winnings you are asked to send money to cover “processing” or “administration” costs.

Phishing — an email (or Vishing for phone calls) pretending to be from your bank asking for you to update, validate or confirm details so that scammers can access your account.

SMSing – mobile phone text messages lure you onto fraudulent websites or invite you to call a premium rate mobile number or download malicious content via the phone or web.

Electricity meter credit – people on pre-payment meters are offered cut-price electricity but end up paying for their energy twice.  Criminals use cloned keys to top up energy credit illegally.  You end up paying for the energy twice – first to the fraudsters and then to the company at the correct rate.

Pyramid selling — this is an illegal trick where you are told you can earn money by recruiting new members to a money-making venture. In reality only a tiny minority make money, everyone else loses.

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