News item

Spam or scam? Emailers take ‘Trading Standards’ name in vain

A bogus email, telling recipients they have been chosen to receive a cash grant or donation from a £1 million pot of money, has taken the name of 'Trading Standards Central UK' in vain.

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) warned the public to beware of such electronic circulars, which can lead to requests to part with money or divulge bank details.

'This particular email originated in Poland, used very poor English and purported to notify the recipient that Trading Standards had awarded them a cash grant or donation for their personal, education and business development,' said Graeme Preston, TSI's spokesman on scams.

'Poland is not the only place that such scams originate - they can come from any country, including the UK. A hint of how poorly worded the email was is that it states that the board of Trading Standards UK, in conjunction with the UK Lottery and Euro Million Lottery, is giving out a yearly donation of £1 million - 'One Million Great British Pound Starlings [sic] Only' - as donations or grants to 100 international recipients.

'Trading Standards is TSI's one-stop shop website for consumer protection information in the UK - but neither TSI nor any local authority trading standards service would have anything to do with an initiative such as this.

'We don't propose to reply to the email and can't yet be sure whether this is just spam, a scam to try to get people to part with money, or an effort to build up a database of email addresses.

'But our advice to anyone receiving such an email is to focus on what the sender is asking for - for example, money or their bank details or for them to call an expensive telephone line. Do not get involved in correspondence - and, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. The TSI advice is Think Once, Think Twice, Think Scam and don't be tempted to respond.'

The email, which gives a series of serial, batch, reference and ticket numbers to claim the prize, was originally sent to the London Borough of Bexley, whose trading standards service brought it to the attention of TSI.

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'The originators of the email state, correctly, that 'Trading Standards promote a fair trading environment for consumers and honest businesses in UK and helps to protect and support them'.

'So it is particularly galling to find that they are prepared to take in vain the name of an organisation which works to protect consumers and businesses from scams and unfair practice. This just serves further to demonstrate that these fraudsters will stop at nothing to draw potential victims into their seedy web. We shall be working with our OFT colleagues to trace the source with our police enforcement counterparts.'

People who would like advice on bogus emails can contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.

Notes to Editors

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

Consumer Direct - 08454 04 05 06

Consumer Direct is a Government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service which works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards. It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services. Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.

Calls cost a maximum of 4 pence per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. The advice and information given is free.