Deceptive sweepstakes are the most common scams to drop through people’s doors or into email inboxes, the Office of Fair Trading said today.
The findings were revealed after a nationwide ‘Scamnesty’ campaign urged residents to hand in scam mailings.
People in almost 50 local authorities put more than 15,000 documents detailing suspicious requests for money in return for prizes or services into special bins during the three-week period.
The OFT said the top five mass-marketed scam mailings were:
- deceptive sweepstakes (3,570)
- misleading prize draws (1,811)
- fake clairvoyants/psychics (523)
- bogus foreign lotteries (401)
- ‘miracle’ health cures (151).
Every year, 3 million people in the UK lose money to scams designed to con victims out of their cash which they receive in the post, by email, text message or over the phone, the OFT estimates.
The total financial loss to the public is £3.5bn, yet only 5% of victims report their experience.
The Scamnesty campaign aimed to encourage the public to fight back against the scammers by collecting any mailings and dropping them into bins at libraries and other locations.
The OFT, the UK’s consumer and competition authority, said the scam mailings provided intelligence to the Government and trading standards departments and will help prevent others from being conned.
Mike Haley, OFT director of consumer protection, said: ‘The huge range of mailings uncovered by the Scamnesty campaign illustrate that there really is a scam for everyone.
‘This campaign has provided crucial intelligence, helping us to stop scams bringing misery to millions of people every year.’
During the campaign, which took place in February, Derbyshire, Edinburgh, Brighton and Hove, Hampshire and Norfolk all reported at least 1,000 separate scam mailings.
The OFT said the campaign would run again next February.
The non-ministerial government department advises anyone who receives a suspicious offer to: ‘Stop, think, and think again.’
People are also warned not to rush into sending money to someone they do not know, to read the offer carefully and to ask for advice.
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