PEOPLE have been urged to `shun the scams'.

Every day people across West Yorkshire get letters claiming they have won lotteries all over the world, along with all kinds of other scams designed to con them out of cash.

All ask for cash up front as "release" or "administration" fees and once the victims have paid they never see the money they are promised.

Now the Office of Fair Trading has made February Scam Awareness Month with the theme - Recognise it, Report it, Stop it.

The aim is to highlight what people should look out for and how they can protect themselves from being conned.

Since its launch last August, Consumer Direct Yorkshire has received hundreds of complaints relating to scams of one sort or another.

Scams are now even sent by text messages and e-mail and constantly change to keep up to date with new technology.

A Consumer Direct spokeswoman said: "It is not always the more vulnerable members of society who fall victim to these scams.

"They are cleverly written and targeted. Falling for a scam doesn't mean you are stupid."

One Leeds man got a letter telling him he had won a stake in the Spanish Lottery. He replied as requested and sent details of his bank account, drivers licence and date of birth in anticipation of receiving his winnings.

He became suspicious when he received a letter telling him that his winnings were in a Spanish bank account, but he needed to send £1,200 as a "release fee".

He contacted Consumer Direct to check whether the company was legitimate and he was told to ignore the letter and not send any money as this was a scam.

Consumer Direct works in close partnership with the 11 Trading Standards Services across Yorkshire and the Humber, and they refer some cases to Trading Standards for further investigation.

Consumer Direct manager John Field said: "Unfortunately, despite much publicity in the past telling consumers not to send money to these companies, it appears they are still big business for the rogue traders who set them up.

"Also by responding to even one of these scams you become a likely target in the future as your details get passed to the people behind the next big scam."

Clr Malcolm Slater, chairman of West Yorkshire Joint Services committee, added: "It is frustrating that many of these scams originate from outside of the UK, making it very hard for enforcement agencies within the UK to act."

Contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 Monday to Friday from 8am to 6.30pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.

Alternatively log on to its website at

* Telephone lottery scams: People respond to an unsolicited mailing or phone call saying they have been entered in a prize draw.

* Prize draw, sweepstakes and foreign lottery mailings

* Premium rate phone scam: Ring a 090 number at premium rates to claim your prize.

* Investment- related scams: An unsolicited call offers you the opportunity to invest in shares, fine wine (pictured), commodities or gemstones.

* Nigerian advance fee fraud: Share in a huge amount of cash for using your bank account. They either clear your bank account or demand an upfront fee to join in.