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OFT, Trading Standards and Police action against rip-off scammers

The OFT has launched an awareness campaign to bring to people’s notice the nature of scams going on.

At the moment the most common scams appear to be:

  • Bogus holiday clubs. You get invited to a “presentation” where prizes are offered and then after sitting through a mind numbing delivery you are pounced upon to join an exclusive holiday club, which rips you off. Estimated losses to consumers is £1.17 billion a year (400,000 people losing an average of £3030).

  • Prize draws/sweepstakes. Letters, texts, automated telephone messages promise prizes in return for a fee. Calls are on premium rate (090) up to £1.50 a minute. Any prize is usually low value. Estimated losses to consumers are £80 million (1 million people losing an average of £80).

  • Bogus health/slimming cures. Whatever worries you the scammers can sort it. Losses of £20 million a year for products which can, in fact, cause harm.

  • Clairvoyant mailings. Unfortunately people can’t see through these! Instead of reading the horoscope in the paper, people pay for, what appear to be, personalised predictions. Losses of £40 million per year for 170,000 adults.

  • Fake foreign lotteries. With the hype for winning millions on some overseas draws, needless to say some unscrupulous sorts contact people claiming they’ve won prizes and requesting payment of administration and taxes. Losses of £260 million per year for 140,000 consumers.

    On the positive side you may remember a scam involving paying excessive fees to become registered under the Data Protection Act. Instead of the basic £35 fee payable the scammers were charging sometimes over £100.

    One of the scammers Francis Boyd ‘earned’ £401,545 in a 15-month period. He was given a 2½-year jail sentence at Liverpool Crown Court after a joint Trading Standards/Police investigation. Partners in crime, Michael Boyd, Paul Barton and Mark Deary were awarded sentences from 8 to 18 months for obtaining a further £206,596.

  • Visit or call 0870 26 77 118 for more information.
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