News item

Trading standards' advice saves elderly victim from £30,000 scam

North East Lincolnshire Council trading standards have been helping people and businesses fight back against the fraudsters during national Scams Awareness Month. 

May was Scams Awareness Month and it gave the trading standards team the opportunity to give consumers the skills and confidence to identify scams, share experiences and take action by reporting suspicious activity. 

One of the reports received during May was from an elderly Immingham man who was about to invest £29,000 in what was found to be a ‘boiler room’ scam. 

Boiler room scams are where fraudsters cold-call investors offering them worthless, overpriced or even non-existent shares. While they promise high returns, those who invest usually end up losing their money. 

He’d been invited to put the money into a bogus diamond investment scheme but Trading Standards officers managed to convince him that it was a fraud and he destroyed his cheques. 

A Grimsby woman was called by a company claiming that she had had a loan in 2005 and that they could claim back the PPI. They asked for her bank details but she knew the call was a scam as she’d never take out a loan. 

A New Waltham business received a mailshot from a company based in Germany claiming to represent ‘The UK European Portal’ and that due to changes in legislation he needed to register his company VAT number. On closer inspection, the business owner noticed a charge of £797 for doing so in the small print. 

In another case, a bogus email was sent to a Tesco customer telling him/her that he/she’d won a £100 prize after completing a customer satisfaction survey, but they wanted details of his/her bank account before they could hand over the money. 

Cllr Hazel Chase, portfolio holder for Safer and Stronger Communities at North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “We know only a small number of scam victims come forward and report these crimes, so there are many more instances that we’re simply not aware of. 

"If you are approached for your bank details and have not entered into any form of purchase or investment, then do not release your details. If released into the wrong hands this could result in financial loss and unnecessary distress.

“Scams are cruel crimes and if we get duped by one, it can really affect our confidence and at worst blight the lives of victims and their families. As ever, our advice is simple - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” 

Online fraud is a growing problem, with 84 per cent of identity fraud being committed over the internet, costing UK consumers £3.3 billion a year. 

Online shopping and auction scams were the most common frauds reported in 2013, costing UK consumers £63.6 million. 

Neil Clark, the council’s community protection manager responsible for trading standards added: “It’s been estimated that nearly half of the people in the UK have been targeted by a scam either through the post, email, online or on the doorstep.

“There is a scam for just about everything and everyone, but these few tips will help you prevent it: Never give out contact details like your name, phone number or address to strangers or to people who should have this information already, never give financial information or details of your identity, bank accounts or credit card to strangers or to the businesses that should already hold your details.” 

If you think that you have been the victim of a scam then you can report it to Action Fraud either visit their website at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. 

Should you wish to report any other trading standards matter then please contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0845 4 040506. 

ENDS 

Interview opportunity: 

The business that was targeted and the woman who was contacted about PPI are happy to be interviewed about what happened. Let me know if you'd like to speak to either of them.

Notes to Editor:

Is it a scam? 

  • The call, letter, e-mail or text has come out of the blue 
  • You've never heard of the lottery or competition they are talking about. You didn't buy a ticket - so you can't win it! 
  • They ask you to send money in advance 
  • They say you have to respond quickly, so you don't get time to think about it or ask family and friends before you decide 
  • They are telling you to keep it a secret 
  • They seem to be offering you something for nothing 

Protect yourself: 

  • Never give out contact details like your name, phone number or address to strangers or to people who should have this information already. 
  • Never give financial information or details of your identity, bank accounts or credit card to strangers or to the business that should already hold your details. 
  • Shred anything with your personal bank details on - don't just throw it away. 
  • If in doubt, don't reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up. 
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: "No thank 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 adverts that ask for money in advance. 
  • Ask friends, neighbours or family about whether an offer is likely to be a scam.We all know scams are cruel crimes and damage consumer confidence and at worst blight the lives of victims and their families. 

Action Fraud provides a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime and is run by the National Fraud Authority – the government agency that co-ordinates the fight against fraud in the UK. 

Sean Topham 

Communications and Marketing 

North East Lincolnshire Council 

Municipal Offices 

Town Hall Square 

Grimsby DN31 1HU 

T: 01472 325968 

E: sean.topham@nelincs.gov.uk

DATE: 10 June 2014