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Consumers urged to turn the tables on scammers

OFT campaign warns people to watch out for scams

Screen shot of consumer direct scams web page

Consumer Direct can help if you think you’re being targeted by psychic scammers

The government is urging people to hand in money-making scams that they’ve received as part of its ‘scamnesty’ campaign.

Over 4 million people in the UK have responded to a scam; a third of those have lost money as a result, according to the Office of Fair Trading. Half of those who fell for scams lost more than £50, while 5% lost more than £5,000.

Read our advice on how to spot a scam.

Email, text and social networking scams

Scammers are targeting consumers by email, text message, letter and on social networking websites.

Chief Executive of the OFT John Fingleton said: ‘Scammers are using ever more sophisticated and cunning tactics to dupe people out of their cash.’

Recently, Which? highlighted the cold calling scam, where people posing as representatives of software giant Microsoft or your ISP, expose fake error messages on your computer and then charge you to ‘fix’ them.

Take a look at our guide to stopping nuisance calls and texts.

Scams awareness month

The OFT hopes that its scams awareness month launched today (February 1, 2010) will alert people to suspicious mailings by dumping junk communications into special ‘scamnesty’ boxes. 

Officers from 129 trading standards teams are taking part; details of the boxes and the online box are available on the government’s Consumer Direct website. 

Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said: ‘It’s really important that people are on their guard and know that help is available, as scams can bring real upset and misery to their victims.’

Specialist trading standards teams have been created to crack down on the worst con tricks.

If you’ve spotted a scam, find out how to report it with our guide.

Which? tips on avoiding scams

  • Banks and other financial institutions will never ask you to send your account details or password via email; if you receive a message asking you to do this, it’s a phishing scam – delete it.
  • Make sure your computer is properly protected with Best Buy security software 
  • Use your common sense; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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