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Scam Alert

Outsmart the scams – bin them – 02/02/2011

Scams are smart. Prove you’re smarter – bin them.

That was the message from Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster when she launched the Trading Standards Service annual Scams Awareness Month campaign.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Trading Standards Service is calling for people to bin their scam mail to show the scammers that they have not been tricked as part of a nationwide ‘Scamnesty’ campaign run by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Launching the campaign, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “Northern Ireland consumers are estimated to lose around a staggering £100 million to scams every year.

“I would encourage anyone targeted by these unscrupulous fraudsters to collect any scam mailings they receive and drop them into designated ‘Scamnesty’ bins located at their local Trading Standards Offices.”

Nearly half of the UK adult population has been targeted by a scam. Every year, one in 15 people across the country fall victim to a scam involving deceptive unsolicited mailings, phone calls or emails, which are designed to con victims out of their cash.

The most common complaints to Domain Scams, DETI’s consumer advice helpline involved advance fee and money transfer, prize draws and sweepstakes, ticketing, foreign lotteries, and career opportunities.

Stephen Thompson, Domain Scams Manager, said: “Scamnesty will help raise awareness of mass marketed scam mailings in the UK. Every day, people are at risk from unscrupulous fraudsters who want to con them out of their cash and it is important that consumers recognise the increasingly sophisticated methods of scammers.”

Damien Doherty, Area Inspector for TSS said: “It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of scam victims year after year. The sad stories range from those who have lost money through buying tickets online that never arrive to those that have lost their life savings on foreign lottery scams. Despite the best efforts of Trading Standards, the majority of victims may never get their money back.

“Many scams are well organised and involve companies based overseas which makes investigation and prosecution difficult. Once again we are urging people to be on their guard and protect themselves from becoming the victim of a scam.”

Consumers can recognise and reject scams by remembering the following tips:

  • Scams are smart. Prove you’re smarter. Bin them!
  • 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.

The OFT estimates that over three million people in the UK fall victim to mass marketed scams every year, collectively losing £3.5 billion. Fewer than 5% of victims report their experience – one reason the OFT and Trading Standards Services carried out the biggest ever public reporting drive for scam mailings.

The OFT’s advice to anyone who receives a possible scam offer is: ‘Stop, think, and think again’. Do not be rushed into sending off money straight away to someone you do not know. How likely is it that you have been especially chosen for this offer? Thousands of other people are likely to have received the same offer. Think again – read the offer carefully. If you are unsure, speak to family or friends or seek advice.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or you suspect a scam, call Domain Scams for clear, practical advice on 0300 123 6262 or visit Consumer Direct.

For more information on scams and how to avoid them, visit NI Direct.

Alternatively, anyone who receives a large volume of scam mailings can contact Domain Scams on 0300 123 6262 and arrange for them to be collected. Consumers can also report all types of scams at Domain Scams.

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