OFT launches scam campaignThe OFT launches scams awareness month

01 February 2006

A campaign to stamp out the billion-pound scams industry is launched today.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has declared February to be Scams Awareness Month. The watchdog will be blitzing the UK with information on how to fight back against con artists.

The initiative starts today with the launch of a 'scam savvy quiz' .

We're supporting the OFT in its drive to arm consumers with the knowledge they need to recognise, report and beat the cons.

Mass-marketing techniques

The campaign comes after we exposed the extent of the scams industry in a Which? investigation published in January (see below). Cassie Smith, who researched our report, said:'We found an estimated 28 million UK consumers are targeted every year by cons which exploit low-cost, mass-marketing techniques such as email and text message, to trick people out of their money.

'We were involved in the planning of the OFT's campaign and we hope it will cut the number of scam victims. We encountered some heart-breaking cases during our own research, such as an elderly woman who was conned out of GBP 40,000 through direct mail scams.'

The OFT's campaign targets cons including fake prize draws and lotteries, sham prize promotions which trick you into calling a premium-rate line, fake mailings from 'psychics', and bogus work-at-home schemes. UK consumers lose an estimated GBP 1 billion a year to such scams.

The OFT has enlisted support of trading standards officers across the country as well as consumer and industry bodies to help promote the campaign.

Avoid falling victim

OFT Chief Executive John Fingleton said: 'Consumers who lose money to scams have very little chance of getting any of it back. So 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.'

Tackling scams is a top priority, says the OFT. Last year, it launched the Scambusters team which is dedicated to catching con artists both in the UK and abroad.

Last week the team succeeded in stopping a Swiss 'clairvoyant' who sent threatening letters to Britons predicting bad luck, imminent danger and severe abuse for those who failed to respond with cash.

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