Saturday, 4 July 2015

Speak out to stop scams

Poole residents are being asked to expose scams and help stop other people from falling prey to clever cons which are aimed at stealing their hard earned cash.

The national Scams Awareness Month, launched on 1 July, highlights how scams continue to flourish when people stay silent. On average less than 5% of victims report scams to the authorities. Poole Trading Standards Officers are encouraging residents to report suspicious activities, get advice if they think they have been conned and to warn others to help stop the scams from spreading.

Scams can come in many forms, from high pressure doorstep sellers to fraudulent online investment offers. Fraudsters may impersonate banks to collect their victim’s bank details, or by bogus companies offering computer services. Online scams include fake job adverts and offers for goods and services that do not exist, while mail scams may ask victims to pay fees in order to claim their winnings from a prize draw they have not even entered. Poole Trading Standards are aware of over 300 local residents who have responded to scam mail during the last few years.

The month long awareness 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 should 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 have spotted a scam.

Peter Haikin, Regulatory Services Manager, Borough of Poole, said: “Scams thrive on the silence of victims. Fraudsters know that even if they realised they’ve been conned, victims are often reluctant to share what happened to them, meaning that scams can continue to spread unchecked. As part of this national campaign we’re urging people in Poole to help lift the lid on scams and start talking about suspicious emails, scam mail, online ads or unscrupulous door-to-door sellers operating in their area. We would encourage anyone who has been the victim of a scam approach to report it to Trading Standards.”

The traditional view of scam victims being elderly or vulnerable is not always true. Fraudsters have also recently targeted Trading Standards themselves by trying to scam exhibitors at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute conference in Bournemouth. Exhibitors received letters requesting information, but hidden in the small print was an agreement to sign up for a directory listing costing thousands of pounds.

Peter Haikin explained: “These scams are run by professional con artists who use a different approach to suit their target victim. For example a bogus concert ticket sales website will appeal to a different market than a fake clairvoyant mailshot. We all need to be on guard, regardless of our age, as it can be very hard to know what to look out for. If you’re contacted out of the blue in particular be on your guard, and never give your bank details out unless you are certain you know who the person is and that you can trust them. If you think you have been scammed, contact Citizens Advice on 03454 040506 for help or to report it to Trading Standards.”

Poole Trading Standards are recommending residents follow their top tips for avoiding scams:

●      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
●      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 phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password ●      Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams


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