Council launches campaign to encourage residents to expose scams and stop more people from falling prey to clever cons that fleece them of thousands of pounds.
Brighton & Hove City Council’s Trading Standards team and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) are supporting the national campaign, launched to mark Scams Awareness Month and highlight how scams flourish when people stay silent.
With less than 5% of victims reporting scams to the authorities, Trading Standards and CAB staff are encouraging residents to report suspicious activities, get advice if they think they’ve been conned, and warn others to help stop scams from spreading.
The Scams Awareness Month campaign is asking people to keep two things in mind when they receive an unsolicited approach or when they are looking for goods or services: don’t be rushed and don’t be hushed. People are advised to take their time to make a decision and get their facts together before parting with their money or personal information, and speak out when they think they’ve spotted a scam.
Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “The fraudsters behind these scams are targeting and exploiting some of the most vulnerable and needy people in our society.
“The single most powerful weapon we have in preventing these scams is better public awareness, therefore I hope this campaign is successful in spreading the messages around scams and preventing more people from falling victim to them.”
Top tips for avoiding scams:
♦ If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
♦ If 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
♦ Contacted out of the blue? – be suspicious
♦ Don’t be rushed – resist pressure to make a decision straight away
♦ Never send money to someone you have never met
♦ Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
♦ Your bank will never attend your home to collect cash, your pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud
♦ Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password
♦ Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons
♦ Suspect a phone scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank
♦ Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
♦ Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams
Scams to watch out for:
♦ Pensions scams – Phrases such as “one-off investment opportunities”, “free pension reviews”, “legal loopholes”, “cash bonus”, “up-front cash sum”, “government endorsement”, “pension liberation,” are commonly used in pension scams.
The initial approach is often an out-of-the-blue phone call, text or email or even sometimes a doorstep caller. Or it could be via an imitation website. Scammers may offer early access to pension pots for people aged under 55 even though this is only possible in exceptional circumstances.
♦ Online shopping and auction scams – Internet shoppers get lured into buying phantom cars, mobile phones, pets or anything else you can buy online. Scammers use a range of tricks including bogus websites, spoofed payment services and “second chance offers” tempting losing bidders with bogus opportunities.
Online property market places are also infiltrated by scammers harvesting legitimate property details and posing as landlords.
♦ Investment fraud – Also called “boiler room” scams because of the high pressure sales technique employed. Shares remain the most common product offered, but they also ask for investment in carbon credits, land, and rare earth metals.
♦ Dating scams – Using online dating websites scammers groom victims into long-distance relationships using emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. Once they are confident of the victim’s trust, scammers will tell them about a problem they are experiencing and ask for financial help.
♦ Software scams – Fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it gives a mask of legitimacy to their cruel schemes. Methods include asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of operating systems, stealing personal information, and installing malware before charging to remove it.
♦ Courier scams (a form of vishing) – Where people receive unsolicited telephone calls from scammers posing as police or their bank warning of a fraudulent payment on their card or that their card is due to expire. The fraudster will then attend the person’s address or send an innocent courier company driver to collect the card and sometimes provide them with a “replacement” fake card.
What to do if you have been scammed:
♦ Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
♦ Often you can’t always get your money back if you’ve been scammed, especially if you’ve handed over cash.
♦ If you’ve paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
♦ Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 (for advice in Welsh phone 03454 04 05 05)
For online advice, click here: