That’s the estimate coming from Citizens Advice ahead of its annual Scams awareness campaign which is organised by the advice charity and the Consumer Protection Partnership, the CPP. They are telling everyone to become scam aware and to “stop, report and talk” in their 2019 campaign which starts on June 10th and runs until the 23rd.
Citizens Advice reports that scams and fraud seem to have become part of our daily lives. The data underlines this, a recent Citizens Advice report found that almost three quarters of people surveyed had been targeted by a scam in the previous two years, with 37% targeted 5 or more times. The national awareness campaign has gone from strength to strength in recent years and has consistently increased calls to the Consumer Service line and Action Fraud.
Janie Moor, CEO of Citizens Advice South Hams says, “We want everyone to become scam aware, scammers not only ruin finances but confidence and possibly lives. Figures collected by our offices in England and Wales suggest that 7 out of 10 people targeted by a scam don’t tell anyone about it, possibly because they are ashamed. Anyone can be the victim of a scam, the age group reporting the most incidences are between 40 – 60, whilst those most detrimentally affected are over 70.
We want to reduce the risk and impact of scams by raising awareness of the issue and encouraging people to take action by stopping and recognising a scam, reporting it, and talking about it with family, friends and neighbours so they can avoid scams and protect themselves”.
- Upfront payment/fee scams – This covers a wide range of situations and scam delivery channels, but they usually ask for an upfront payment to unlock either a cash prize, a PPI claim amount or for initiating a service.
- There have been recent reports in the North West of England of an advance payment doorstep scam targeting people on Universal Credit. People are followed home from Job Centres, where the scammer will then approach the target asking if they want to take out a government loan, requiring an “advance fee”.
- Fake Service / invoice – This also covers a wide range of situations, but asks for payment for either a service the scam victim has never heard of or for a service which ended up being non-existent.
- Doorstep/street selling -These all begin with the person getting an unrequested knock on their door. They are often for expensive home improvements which the victim did not want or was pressured into.
- Investment – Often conducted either online or over the phone, these can result in people losing thousands of pounds for non-existent stocks, shares and other investments such as rare wine or art. Average losses are very high.
- Antivirus/computer – People are cold called and told they have a problem with their computer which, for a fee, can be fixed. Alternatively the victim might initiate the contact in response to an online advert or prompt claiming that their device has been infected with a virus. Other computer scam methods involve offering bogus virus protection or warranties.
- Contactless card scams – Contactless cards are ‘skimmed’ (where details are read or copied) by a card reader or phone nearby. While this is a relatively new crime and reporting figures are low, there has been media speculation about the rise of this type of scam.
- Online shopping and auction sites – Items are advertised for sale, often at a bargain price with pictures to make it appear more genuine. The buyer may be pressured into paying via bank transfer instead of a third party payment service. Once the payment is made the item is either not received or is counterfeit.
- Copycat Government official service scams – Callers or websites claim to be official government departments and sell services for a ‘fee’. For example, they might claim to help process passports or driver’s licenses.
- Pension scams – Pension freedoms introduced in April 2015 give consumers added flexibility but it’s essential they make informed decisions using trusted sources. The Citizens Advice report ‘Too good to be true’ calculates that 8.4 million people have been offered unsolicited pension advice or reviews since April 2015. In a survey, 88% of consumers selected a pension offer containing scam warning signs, including out of the blue offers promising high returns, pressure to sign paperwork, and offers to access pensions before the age of 55.
- Subscription traps or free trial scams – Some unscrupulous companies use subscription traps, and in particular continuous payment authority (CPA), to help themselves to consumers’ accounts. Common ones include those offering health and beauty-related products such as slimming pills or skin creams. The government has reaffirmed their commitment to tackle subscription traps and empower consumers, but in the meantime, consumers still need to take care.
- Job scams – Scams include taking money to write CVs or carrying out security checks. Some offer expensive training programmes that don’t exist, some even offer jobs that don’t exist!
- Ticket scams – Consumers buy tickets for an event that is already sold out or the tickets haven’t yet gone on sale. The tickets then either do not arrive or are fake. Consumers should use credit cards or secure payments and ensure purveyors are members of STAR – Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.
- Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or call blocking scams – Scammers demand payment for the free TPS or sell call blockers which either do not work properly or are part of an expensive subscription service.
- Vishing – This is where the consumer received a cold call aimed at extracting personal information and details from them. Scammers impersonate someone from a trusted organisation, such as a bank, to manipulate people into transferring money or pass on financial/ personal details.
- Smishing – Text messages used to lure people into scam websites or inviting them to call premium rate numbers or download malicious content.
- Phishing – Emails and harmful links designed to deceive people into revealing personal/financial details. By spoofing emails, email addresses, websites and payment services, scammers can trick people into believing they are dealing with genuine banks, traders and/or authorities.
Citizens Advice will be organising scam awareness events at the Totnes Elizabethan Market on Tuesday 11th June and the Watermark Centre in Ivybridge on Tuesday 18th June.
Anyone who thinks they have been scammed can get help and report it to –
The Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/sa19 .They can also report problems to Trading Standards who are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.
Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. (If debit cards, online banking or cheques are involved in the scam the consumer’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company. If the scam is a pension transfer, they need to contact the provider immediately, along with the Pensions Advisory Service).