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Scots urged to 'declare war' on scams

24 Oct 2011

Almost half of Scots have been targeted by fraudsters hoping to trick them out of their money, according to a report published today by Citizens Advice Scotland. But only 5% of these scams are ever reported, which gives the fraudsters the confidence to continue conning others.

CAS have been conducting the research amid concerns that scams are becoming more common. The charity is today calling for people to ‘declare war’ on scams by being more vigilant, and reporting them when they do happen. CAS are underlining this message today by attending an ‘anti-scams’ event which is being held in Arbroath by Angus Council.

Publishing their report, Crime of Persuasion – Scams and their Victims, CAS spokesman Matt Lancashire said,

“Scam cases - where people deliberately lie to con people out of money – are among the most distressing cases that CAB advisers see. We want to call today for every single person in the country to increase their vigilance and stand up to those who act like this. It’s time to declare war on scams.

“This problem affects every one of us. Research has found that half of us have experienced attempted scams at one time or another, and 8% of us will fall victim to at least one in our lifetime. In extreme cases, people can lose hundreds of thousands of pounds to scams. And they cost the UK economy £30bn each year.

“It is sometimes thought that elderly people are the most vulnerable to scams, but in fact our research shows that the highest percentage of scam victims are those aged 35-44. This group is twice as likely to fall victim than those over-65. The truth is that ANYONE can be a victim of a con-trick. Many scams today are very sophisticated, and there is no shame in falling for them.

“But one of the most shocking things we’ve found is that, although half of us experience scams, only 5% of them are ever reported. Frankly, that is why scams keep happening. The fraudsters who commit them are confident that, even if they don’t always get a ‘result’, they will hardly ever be reported so they may as well keep trying. Let’s change that. Let’s be more vigilant in spotting scams, and let’s report them when we see them.”

Over the last 3 months CAS have surveyed 600 Scottish CAB clients on this issue to ask which scams they felt were most common. The top three scams they identified were: people who trick you into ‘switching’ to more expensive gas or electricity suppliers; so-called ‘Debt Management’ companies who offer to relieve you of your debts but actually leave you even worse off than before; and of course those who claim that ‘you have won a prize’ and demand an administration fee before you can get it.

The full results of the survey are below.

Matt Lancashire continues,

“This campaign is all about raising awareness, and encouraging people to fight back. We want everyone to be more vigilant, and to report anything that they suspect is a scam – even if they haven’t fallen for it themselves. You can report any scam to your local Council’s Trading Standards Office, or of course to the CAB.

“We feel it’s a real shame that we have to offer this kind of advice. We all want to trust our fellow citizens. However, it is clear that there are people out there who will take advantage of that trust. So let’s declare war on them, and make them feel they can’t afford to take the risk.

“In our report today, we outline 5 basic rules that everyone should follow when they are presented with an offer they feel is too good to be true. In summary these are:

1.Be Sceptical

2.Take Your Time

3.Know Who You’re Dealing With

4.Protect Your Information

5.Report It!!!!!!

“Scams are too often successful, and CAB advisers see many very sad cases where people have been conned out of their hard-earned money. But if we all work together, keep an eye out for each other and report scams when they happen, we can cut their numbers considerably. So let’s start to do that today. And remember: If it looks too good to be true then it probably is.”

For further information or to arrange interviews with CAS spokespersons, please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655 or 0131 550 1010.

Notes to editors:

The CAS report ‘Crimes of Persuasion,’ is attached, and details of the CAS survey of CAB clients are given in the table below.

In the next phase of this campaign, all Scottish CABs will be working closely with their local Councils’ Trading Standards Officers to crack down on the scams that are operating in their individual areas. To highlight this next phase, Matt Lancashire is today representing CAS at an ‘anti-scam’ event at the Webster Theatre in Arbroath, hosted by Angus Council’s Trading Standards service. The event is also being attended by representatives of the NHS, the Scottish Police Service, and a number of voluntary and private organisations who are all working together to fight fraud locally. For more details of this particular event contact Linda Menzies at Angus Council’s Press Office: 01307 476118.

CAS survey of CAB clients

The CAS survey of Scottish CAB clients was conducted from August-September this year. We asked 600 clients to each identify the three scams that they thought were most prevalent and should be our top priorities. These are the results. (NB Remember each person had 3 votes each).

 

Type of Scam

 

Votes

1

‘Switching’ To More Expensive Suppliers

66.3

377

They offer to save you money by switching your gas, electricity or phone suppliers, but you end up paying more

2

Debt Advice firms

51

290

They claim they can help you with your debts but they charge you fees and don’t sort out your debts.

3

Non-existent ‘Prizes’

41.5

236

They pretend you’ve won a prize and take your money for admin fees, tax etc – but there’s no prize

4

Loan Offers

39

222

They use your bank details to take money from you but you don’t get a loan

5

Job Offers

23.6

134

Where you have to pay up-front fees and there is no job

6

Accommodation

17.4

99

Adverts for flats where you pay a deposit and rent up front but there’s no flat

7

Meters

17.2

98

Pay-as-you-go electricity meter keys that don’t work

8

On-Line tickets

15.8

90

e.g. for concerts or sports events; you pay upfront but you never receive them or they are fakes

9

Training Courses

14.4

82

You pay upfront but the courses don’t happen or are unsuitable

10

Building Work

13.4

76

They take your money but never do the building work

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