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Scam advice from council Trading Standards Team

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May 2014 has been National Scams Awareness Month and Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards team is using it as an opportunity to raise awareness and to provide information and advice.

Scams are schemes to con people out of their money and can come in a variety of formats: by post, phone, email, online, or via a knock on the door.

Every year more than three million people in the UK fall victim to scams, losing hundreds and even thousands of pounds. It’s estimated nearly half of people in the UK (48 per cent) have been targeted by a scam and that £3.5bn is lost every year.

Scams are crimes that affect people across all sections of society, with distressing and sometimes damaging consequences.

For a variety of reasons most go unreported: some victims are unaware they’ve been scammed, others feel shame or embarrassment at being caught out.

There are hundreds of existing scams and new ones emerging all the time. Many employ well-honed techniques to create a sense of urgency, opportunity or threat; whatever it takes to cajole and coerce people into parting with money or potentially valuable information.

Below are some of the more common types of scam:

• Lotteries - a phone call, text or email proclaims a huge lottery win, even though the receiver hasn’t bought a ticket. To collect winnings people are asked to send money to cover “processing” or “administration” costs.

• Advance fee - a letter offers a huge payment in return for help in getting

money out of a foreign country. People are promised a share for helping with the

transfer. They may be asked for bank details, and once they have these the

fraudsters raid the victim’s bank account.

• Clairvoyants and psychics - mailings from a so-called psychic or clairvoyant

make predictions. Some warn of dire consequences unless a fee is paid, some

promise a bright future with details to follow if people pay up first. Those who send

money get little or nothing in return and are likely to be bombarded by further scam

mailings.

• Phishing - an email apparently from the receiver’s bank arrives requesting

them to update, validate or confirm details. It’s designed to trick people into revealing

personal information and passwords so scammers can access their account.

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Businesses can also be targeted by scammers, for example receiving invoices for

goods that haven’t been ordered.

The most common type of business scam is the “publishing scam”. Usually targeted

at smaller businesses, the scammers employ deliberately misleading language

carefully scripted to sell advertising space in various types of publications, such as

wall planners, diaries, yearbooks and crime-prevention or drugs-awareness booklets.

Often it is claimed the publication is being produced on behalf of some reputable or

worthy-sounding cause, or that proceeds will go to charity.

In reality, most of these rogue publishers produce nothing at all and, although

some may produce a few token copies of the supposed publication, these are not

circulated in sufficient numbers, or in the right areas, to be of any practical benefit to

the advertisers.

Here are some key messages to remember:

• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

• It you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it.

• You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize.

• If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.

• Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No thank you”.

• Contacted out of the blue – be suspicious.

• Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the

person contacting you.

• Take your time – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.

• Never send money to someone you don’t know.

• Walk away from job ads asking for money in advance.

As with most crime, prevention is better than cure. The more people know about

such scams, the less likely they are to become victims and the harder it will be for

scammers.

Information on many of the current scams is available on the Trading Standards

pages of the Aberdeenshire Council website. (http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/

tradingstandards/index.asp )

Warning family, friends, neighbours can help people avoid scams. If you get a

suspicious circular or are contacted, make sure you tip-off others.

If you have been targeted by a scam, or know someone who has, you can report it to

Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. If debit

cards, online banking or cheques are involved in the scam the consumer’s first step

should be to contact their bank or credit card company.

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You can also get advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service by calling

08454 04 05 06 or online at: www.adviceguide.org.uk

 

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