Scam Awareness Month

The Highland Council’s Trading Standards team is taking part in Scam Awareness Month which is an international campaign running throughout February aimed at arming consumers with skills and knowledge to recognise, report and combat mass marketed scams. As well as raising awareness Trading Standard Officers will be carrying out internet sweeps in a bid to combat scams.

It is estimated that UK consumers lose £1 billion per year to scams of varying disguises. Recent research suggests that an estimated 28 million UK consumers are targeted every year by scams which exploit low-cost, mass-marketing techniques – that is, email, text message, post, telephone and internet – to con people out of their money. These include deceptive prize draws and lotteries, misleading premium-rate prize promotions, fake ‘psychic’ mailings, advance fee frauds and bogus work-at-home schemes, among others.

Nigel MacKenzie, Head of Trading Standards welcomes the initiative. He said: "Consumers who are referred to our advice line through Consumer Direct are all too often the victims of scams of varying kinds. Young and inexperienced consumers can be targeted through their mobile phone by unscrupulous prize draws. This can often wipe out phone credits unwittingly. Other scams target the elderly or vulnerable consumer who may be at home during the day. Consumers continually complain about receiving numerous phone calls during the day from prize draw promoters, offering cash prizes, holidays and luxury gifts as an incentive to respond. Once personal details are given to the operative names become part of a pool shared by all sorts of companies and the consumer becomes quickly bombarded by phone calls. Consumers who lose money to scams have very little chance of getting any of it back and most can ill afford to lose money in the first place. It is essential that in addition to enforcing the law against scammers, we equip consumers with the skills and knowledge necessary to avoid falling victim to them in the first place."

Mr MacKenzie further stressed: "We urge consumers come to us with their concerns. A big barrier for a lot of consumers is admitting they have been caught out by a scam. In order to combat this crime we need their assistance and any phonecalls, email, letters received will be in strictest confidence. I would urge any consumer who has been victim of a scam to contact us."

The campaign is organised by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN). Joint partners of the various projects will take an active role including the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Consumer Direct Service, "Which?", the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS).

Highlights of the scam awareness campaign will include:

11 Apr 2006