Intro

–        With us today, we have Joan Fox and Adam Spindler from Citizens Advice to speak to us about Scams awareness for the next hour.

 

–        So Joan, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Thank you Paul. We are a charity that has been set up since 4th September 1939, when the first 200 offices were set up. We offer free, confidential and impartial advice to any client who needs us, whatever the issue may be, whether it be debt or just knowing where the local leisure centre is. We are from South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice, who have offices in Burntwood and Lichfield.

–        And, Adam, you are here this month to speak about scams awareness?

Yes, this July, we are promoting Scams Awareness Month, which last year 340 different organisations took part in. The organisations took part in tasks such as spreading messages through social media, going out and talking to people about scams face to face and displaying posters and postcards.

Local Citizens Advice worked in partnership with local organisations, such as Trading Standards and police and crime commissioner offices to ensure that organisations that work to protect those most at risk prioritise scams.

This year we are focusing on 4 different target groups each week in July; the ‘life established’ which are people in the 40s to 60s, young people aged 18-24, over 70s and the socially isolated. Information on these groups can be found on our website, which we will release at the end of the interview.

–        So, what is a scam?

A scam can often be identified as a scheme to cheat people out of money or personal details. It can also be labelled as a fraud, hoax, con, swindle or cheat. Scams can come in many forms and can appear genuine.  Some new vocabulary associated with scams includes Vishing, Smishing, and Phishing, which can be defined on the Citizens Advice webpage.

We at South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice have been updating our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook with helpful tips on how to identify and prevent scams taking place. This year we have had people come to us with advertising and prize draw related scam cases, whether they have been a victim or have been cautious. This month we will be updating our webpage with case studies, to give people a better understanding on what to look out for.

Here are some Scam facts and figures –

Scam and fraud cases reported are said to be up this year with 3.6 million cases, which is an 8% rise from last year.

£10.9 billion is the estimated loss each year from scams and fraud.

According to figures from City of London Police, between 2015 and 2016 a total of £40 million was lost from victims of dating fraud with 45% of people reporting that it had a “significant impact on their health or financial wellbeing”.

According to the government campaign Cyberware, 82% of households have double locks or deadlocks, while only 32% use three random words to create a strong password, as the government advises.

–        Can you list the types of scams that are out there to listeners who may be unsure of them?

Current scams that have been reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service include –

Pensions scams – These can involve accepting pension offers that are deemed to be ‘too good to be true’ when you select one from an untrustworthy source. Citizens Advice have reported that, since April 2015, 8.4 million people have been offered unsolicited pension advice or reviews. A survey has shown that 88% of consumers chose a pension scheme that contained scam warning signs, such as offers promising in excess of 8% pension investment returns, pressure to sign documents such as sending a courier and offers to access your pension before the age of 55. This is from Citizens Advice research.

Investment scams – These are often started through unsolicited phone calls and frequent scam investments include wine, shares, rare earth minerals and over sea land investments. Action Fraud has reported recently film-production scams, when investors are promised returns of 48% after an advanced fee.

Subscription traps or free trial scams– Women between the age ranges of 50-64 are most at risk of subscription traps, or free trial scams offering beauty products.  These can include slimming pills and facial and/or skin creams. Losses associated with subscription traps range from £50 – £100. In 2017, it was announced via the government that there would be a crackdown on subscription traps, encouraging consumers to put a stop to it. However, people still need to be vigilante, being aware of websites and hosting affiliated ads.

Job scams – Currently, it is estimated that a growing number of job seekers search for vacant positions online. Scams in this area include taking money to write CV’s or offering expensive training or jobs that don’t exist. Another scam is holding a phone interview costing the recipient hundreds of pounds. The Metropolitan Police inform us that the most defrauded age category is 18-24 year olds, through their website Safer Jobs.

Computer Scams – These scams often occur when people are called saying that they have a computer problem and need to pay a fee for the computer to be fixed. About 40% of these refer to Microsoft and Windows. Another example of an online scam is a victim establishing contact with the scammer by clicking on an online advertisement that claims that their computer has been infected with a virus. Payments are often taken via the phone, entered via a pop-up or through money transfers such as Western Union. In severe cases, callers steal financial and personal details. Other computer related scams include offers of bogus virus protections or warranties.

Ticket scams – these types of scams can often occur if a consumer wants to buy an event ticket and the authorised website has already sold out or the tickets have yet to be sold. Scam tickets may never turn up or you may be asked to meet someone at a venue and they never turn up, having taken your money. Consumers need to research  the website they are buying tickets from to make sure that they are genuine and need to use credit cards or secure payments and ensure the purveyors are a member of STAR – Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.

–        So Adam you were giving us a list of the different types of Scams?

Lottery/prize draw scams – these come mainly through post and include fake ticket prizes for major sporting events and for abroad non-existent lotteries.

–        A story similar to this is the story of Jessica. Jessica was a scam victim, over 5 years, who was tricked into sending money to criminals through transfer. Jessica sadly passed away in 2007, still awaiting promised prizes. Approximately 30,000 letters were reported to have been removed from her home. This came to be known as Jessica Scam Syndrome (JSS).

Copycat Government official service – this is when callers claim to be from government sources such as passport and driver’s license processors.  Reports have come though from people claiming to be from “the Government Grants department” telling people they are entitled to grants of several thousand pounds for being a good citizen through doing things such as paying taxes and/or bills on time. They could ask for a down payment of £200 before releasing the money to you or ask for payment details.

Council tax re-banding scams – this could be a cold call under your local council’s name, offering a rebate for council tax over-payment, but for a fee.

Telephone Preference Service (TPS) – this is a free service and scammers sometimes demand payment for it and sell call blockers that do not work or are linked to an expensive subscription service.

Advertising Scams – this type of scam usually target self-employed people or small businesses, asking for payments or offering advertisement opportunities through cold calls. Following the scam, the victims are often told that they verbally consented.

This may seem like a very worrying list, but we will add some useful contacts online from Action Fraud and the Metropolitan Police to help you identify emerging and current scams.

–        What can listeners do at home to prevent scams from happening?

The general key points for spotting a scam are –

Don’t be rushed into making a decision, does it sound too good to be true, don’t suffer in silence, if you haven’t bought a ticket you haven’t won anything, never send money to someone you don’t know or trust, never pay for a prize, be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue, reject cold calls that offer investment and pension advice, walk away from jobs that require money in advance and hang up and wait 5 minutes or use another line to call your bank if you suspect a phone scam.

Your bank will also never ask you for your pin and password and will never travel to your home for your payment card, cheque book or to collect cash, if you are a fraud victim. They will also never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud related concerns.

Genuine computer firms will not make unsolicited or not asked for phone calls to help you in fixing your computer.

The general public can get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06. Problems concerning scams can also be reported to trading standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service. Trading standards protect consumers and the community from unfair traders.

South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice has branches in Burntwood and Lichfield.

You can telephone us on our advice line 03444 111 444 or visit us at our Burntwood Office between 10 and 2 on a Monday or Wednesday, or at our Lichfield Office between 10 and 2 on a Tuesday or a Friday.

  1. Scams can be reported to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk.

It is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. Banking queries, such as debit cards, online banking or cheques should be referred to the consumer’s bank or Credit Card Company.

  1. People can also tell family, friends and neighbours to make people more aware and avoid scams.

To reduce unwanted contacts:

–        Consumers can register their number with the free Telephone Preference Service (TPS) at www.tpsonline.org.uk

–        Truecall and Callblocker are also products you can purchase to block telephone calls.

–        Report unsolicited marketing calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office at – https://ico.org.uk/concerns/marketing or by calling 0303 121 1113

–        Collect door stickers to prevent cold calling. These can be picked up at some police stations and trading standards or we have some at our offices.

You can also register with the neighbourhood data scheme OWL, which will send you crime alerts and give you tips on how to manage, maintain and expand watches. They can be found at https://www.owl.co.uk/.

We regularly update our Twitter page, @sescab and our Facebook page Citizens Advice South East Staffordshire.

 

 

–        Do you have any other helpful links for people that have been involved in a scam or believe that they might have been involved in a scam?

Of course!

Extra information and resources can be found on the South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice website at http://www.ses-cab.org/.

Again, you can also telephone us, at South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice, on our advice line 03444 111 444 or visit us at our Burntwood Office between 10 and 2 on a Monday or a Wednesday, or at our Lichfield Office between 10 and 2 on a Tuesday or a Friday.