Scams are schemes used to con consumers and businesses out of their money and can come in a variety of ways: post, phone, email, online, or via a knock on the door.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards team wants to make you aware of the different types and what to do if you think you or anyone you know has been targeted.
July 2015 is National Scams Awareness Month, an annual opportunity for everyone to take a united stand against practices which cause untold misery for millions of people each year.
To help make people aware of the sheer extent of scams and the threat they pose, trading standards officers are posting a series of tweets throughout July from the Twitter account @AberdeenshireTS
These will help people recognise the tell-tale signs of a scam, in whatever form it comes, and what can be done.
Officers are also working on an information leaflet which will be a guide to various types of scams, including advice on dealing with them.
Below are some of the more common types of scam:
- Lotteries - A phone call, text or email proclaims a huge lottery win – even though the receiver hasn’t bought a ticket. In order to collect winnings people are asked to send money to cover "processing" or "administration" costs.
- Advance fee - A letter offers a huge payment in return for help in getting money out of a foreign country. People are promised a slice of that money for helping with the transfer. They may be asked for bank details. Once they have these the fraudsters raid the victim’s bank account.
- Clairvoyants and psychics - Mailings from a so-called psychic or clairvoyant make predictions. Some warn of dire consequences unless a fee is paid, some promise a bright future with details to follow if people pay up first. Those who send money get little or nothing in return and are likely to be bombarded by further scam mailings.
- Phishing - an email apparently from the receiver’s bank arrives requesting them to update, validate or confirm details. It’s designed to trick people into revealing personal information and passwords so that scammers can access their account.
Businesses can also be targeted by scammers, for example receiving invoices for goods that haven’t been ordered.
The most common type of business scam is the “publishing scam”. Usually targeted at smaller businesses, the scammers employ deliberately misleading patter carefully scripted to sell advertising space in various types of publications, such as wall planners, diaries, yearbooks and crime-prevention or drugs-awareness booklets.
Often it is claimed the publication is being produced on behalf of some reputable or worthy-sounding cause, or that proceeds will go to charity.
In reality, most of these rogue publishers produce nothing at all and although some may produce a few token copies of the supposed publication, these are not circulated in sufficient numbers, or in the right areas, to be of any practical benefit to the advertisers.
The following are key messages for Scams Awareness Month:
- 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.
- Persuasive sales patter? Just say: "No thank you".
- Contacted out of the blue? Be suspicious.
- Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting 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 asking for money in advance.
As with most crime, prevention is better than cure. The more people know about such scams, the less likely they are to become victims and the harder it will be for the scammers.
Information on many of the current scams is available on the Trading Standards pages of the Aberdeenshire Council website.
Warning family, friends, neighbours can help people avoid scams. If you get a suspicious circular or are contacted, make sure you tip off others.
If you have been targeted by a scam, or know someone who has, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. It 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.
You can also get advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service 03454 04 05 06 or online at www.adviceguide.org.uk