Lincolnshire Trading Standards officers believe scammers have cost residents in the county more than £2million in the last 18 months.
Over 2,000 names have been passed to Lincolnshire Trading Standards, of people who are known or suspected of being targeted by scam mail. In the last 18 months Trading Standards officers have visited 350 people who they believe they have lost an estimated £2 million. Most of this money has been sent to catalogue, clairvoyant, lottery and sweepstake scams.
Large cash rewards and other luxury prizes are guaranteed, but these never arrive. Scams are cleverly designed to tempt people into parting with as much cash as possible.
As part of National Consumer Week, which is launched on November 27, Trading Standards are hoping to raise awareness as to the scale of this fraud. Over £9 billion is sent from the UK to overseas scams each year. This is mass marketing fraud undertaken by criminal networks.
Trading Standards Officer Eve Wrighton said: “These criminals often target the vulnerable such as people who are isolated, recently bereaved or suffering a form of cognitive impairment.
“Victims can be bombarded by between 25 and 30 pieces of mail a day. We are working with partner agencies such as Lincolnshire Police across Lincolnshire and the region to raise awareness. £2million is a staggering amount of money, but sadly these are only the cases we know about.
“This is a silent crime and often hidden away from friends and families. Scam victims may be secretive when quizzed, or be quick to change topic. I would always encourage people to ask gentle questions, if they are concerned about someone being scammed.
“The number of victims we have identified is only a small proportion of the true figure. We estimate it could be ten times as much.”
The message coming from Trading Standards is that anyone can be caught out by a scam. Peter (his name has been changed to protect his identity), who lives in Fiskerton, has been working with Trading Standards Officers after falling victim to the fraudsters.
He said: “These people know how to make you buy and carry on buying week after week. I hope others learn from what I have been through. You just fall into it. The reason for me doing this publicity is to help other people who might not realise they are being duped, because they are being duped.
“There will be people who say I’ve been stupid and fair enough. But if just a few people see this and realise that it could happen to them then it will have done some good.”
Trading Standards are asking members of the public to look out for tell-tale signs that someone they know might be being targeted by scam mail, which can include:
* Increased mail deliveries – parcels, packages and envelopes
* Significant cash withdrawals, or lots of empty cheque stubs
* Unknown products such as vitamins, cosmetics or confectionary with foreign labelling
* Trinkets such as coins, crystals, spiritual tokens, which normally come in small black jewellery pouches
* Free gifts such as jewellery, a birthday card from an unknown person in Australia or Canada
Anyone who feels they are being targeted or suspect loved ones could be suffering can report their fears to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 040506 or citizensadvice.org.uk or https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or for help and support contact www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk