“In God We Trust”

The national motto of the United States (which appears on every US banknote) will not appeal to everyone.  So, in who or what can we all trust?  Well, May 2013 is a time to reflect on who we would do well not to trust.  Why?  Because it is Scams Awareness month.

Many believe that scams only happen to other people who allow the prospect of easy money to cloud their better judgment.  However it is worth remembering that there are more than three million victims of scams in the UK every year and that they come from all walks of life.  The sums lost by individuals often run into thousands of pounds amounting to a total of £3.5 billion every year.  It has been estimated that nearly half of people in the UK (48 per cent) have been targeted by a scam and new frauds are being promoted all the time so we all need to be vigilant.  Scams are especially serious for people on low incomes, often leading to debt

Citizens Advice bureaux across the country are campaigning with the Trading Standards Institute to promote Scams Awareness month.  The objective is to warn people about situations experienced by our clients like the one who paid £880 for three non-existent iPads in a pyramid selling scheme or another who received a genuine HMRC tax rebate and assumed that emails about further rebates were also genuine and gave her details to a phishing scam.  Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

Scammers are inventive and always thinking up new ways to steal and make no mistake, scamming is theft.  Here are a few examples of recent scams

•         Bogus solicitors – criminals setting up bogus firms, usually with the intention of stealing mortgage loans.

•         Phantom debts – cold callers threatening potential victims with arrest unless they pay a debt that is owed.

•         Rare metal investment scam – cold callers contacting people to persuade them to invest in “rare earth metal oxides.”

•         Assassin scam email – a “sympathetic assassin” who claims that the email recipient has wrongly had a contract taken out against them

  • Scammers claiming to be from “the Ministry” saying that your bank owes you money.
  • Residents in one part of Surrey are being warned about unsolicited phone calls offering roof insulation.  The callers go on to ask for personal details
  • Please be aware of fake websites / charities / Facebook pages / Twitter accounts that prey on your goodwill after a disaster.    Somebody created a fake Boston Marathon tweet promising to donate $1 for Boston Marathon victims for every retweet.
  • Trading standards are finding counterfeit chocolate bars with fake golden tickets on sale at inflated prices across the UK.  According to news reports, they carry a message on the packaging saying “five lucky winners will find a golden ticket inside”.   In fact every bar contains a “winning” ticket – with no information on how to claim the prize.

Surrey Trading Standards recommend that all cold calking (at the door or over the phone) should be turned away.  Don’t feel you have to listen to a cold caller out of politeness.  You can also get a sticker to display at your front door which will let cold callers know they are unwelcome. .   If you have friends or family who are particularly vulnerable please look out for them

If you feel you have been the victim of a scam or encountered what you believe was an attempted scam please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06. If you would like advice on scams or any other consumer issues or on housing, legal matters, discrimination, employment, immigration or benefits issues, please call the Citizens Advice Waverley line on 0844 848 7969 to talk to an adviser or to make an appointment for a face to face meeting. You should be aware that calls to this number cost just over 5p a minute from a BT land line. Charges for calls from mobile phones may vary. If you are comfortable using the Internet you might like to try AdviceGuide, the Citizens Advice self help web site at www.adviceguide.org.uk


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