They sound too good to be true. The swindlers think we will fall for it and sadly some people do. Trading standards officers are again warning people to be wary of a scam which is doing the rounds. ANDREW BALDWIN reports
SWINDLES such as prize draw fiddles are costing UK people £3.5bn a year.
Many of the scams sound too good to be true; yet people still fall for them.
Trading standards officers are warning people to be wary of another lottery scam letter which is doing the rounds.
The letter, claiming to be from La Primitiva or International Lottery Board, is one of many similar swindles which claim that the recipient has won a large cash prize in a foreign lottery.
It asks for personal details, such as name, address and occupation, and requires the “winner” to keep the matter private because of “mixed up names and addresses”.
If recipients respond they can be drawn into shelling out large quantities of cash to chase an elusive prize.
Personal details may also be used for identity fraud.
The scam is known as a 419 — so called after the relevant clause in the Nigerian Criminal Code — or advanced fee fraud.
Malcolm Mallinson, of Milnsbridge, received such a letter.
Mr Mallinson, 61, said: “It looks pretty good and it’s well worded.
“Thankfully I’m not stupid enough to fall for it, but I’m worried about people who are. It’s a lousy trick to play.
“It could be a pensioner or an unemployed person who falls for it.”
In fact, they are exactly the sort of person who is deceived.
February has been allocated as Scams Awareness Month in a bid to prevent people parting with their cash.
Information will be given about mass marketed scams sent by post, email, text, the phone and the internet.
An estimated 3m UK people fall victim each year. Many of them are elderly and vulnerable who are being targeted by an array of increasingly sophisticated scams.
The Office of Fair Trading says scams can be recognised because:
l They are received out of the blue
l They promise something for nothing
l They want money up front.
Bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draw and sweepstakes, fake psychics and ‘miracle’ health cures; you name it, people fall for it.
Anyone can be taken in but the elderly are often hit hardest. Research shows that older victims are likely to lose nearly twice as much per scam as others.
Victims are often socially isolated, over-trusting or afflicted by illnesses such as dementia and can be repeatedly targeted by the scammers. Many lose their life savings and suffer depression and ill-health as a result.
Mike Haley, Office of Fair Trading director of consumer protection, says: “Scammers use sophisticated psychological techniques to target people who are often the most vulnerable in society.
“Those who fall for these scams not only lose their savings, but often live in fear, suffering debt and depression and being too afraid to tell anyone of their plight.
“We want to ask family members, carers and others to help spot the warning signs before it is too late.”
Daniel Blake, of Action on Elder Abuse, says: “Scammers operate through a ruthless circle of psychological and financial abuse.
“They gain people’s trust and exploit fears, insecurities and pain to steal as much money as they can from those who can least afford it.”
One of the newest scams comes from Africa and offers the chance to adopt a puppy.
Sadly, a number of people in Yorkshire have been taken in and duped into paying hundreds of pounds for dogs that do not exist.
The conmen place online ads for pedigree puppies for ‘adoption’, claiming to be based in the UK. But in fact they are in Cameroon, west Africa.
They ask for cash to be sent by money transfer, then upon receipt claim they will arrange to have the puppy delivered to your door.
Once the consumer sends the payment the conmen ask for a further £250 for insurance, inoculation fees and other formalities which need to be paid for before delivery can be confirmed.
Consumers end up parting with their cash, then find that no puppy is going to be delivered.
David Lodge, at West Yorkshire Trading Standards, says: “We always say that when you get anything unsolicited it’s a reason to be suspicious.
“If it’s asking to provide personal details or send money then the golden rule is not to respond, throw it in the bin and report them.”
Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a scam, or suspects a scam is being attempted, can contact Consumer Direct for clear, practical advice. Phone 08454 04 05 06 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk