What are Scams?
Scams come in many forms; uninvited contact is received by email, letter, and telephone or in person making false promises to con victims out of money. There are many scams but the most common are fake lotteries, deceptive prize draws or sweepstakes, clairvoyants, computer scams, and romance scams. The criminals attempt to trick people with flashy, official looking documents or websites, or convincing telephone sales patter, with the aim of persuading them to send a processing or administration fee, pay postal or insurance costs or make a premium rate phone call. Doorstep Scams are crimes carried out by bogus callers, rogue traders and unscrupulous sales people who call, often uninvited, at people's home under the guise of legitimate business or trade.
Joe's story has been recorded and kindly shared with Friends Against Scams by Durham Constabulary.
Mr and Mrs A's story
Mr and Mrs A had been scam victims for around 20 years. Mr and Mrs A had run a successful leisure business for many years and they were financially stable. Then, around 20 years ago, the business started to fail.
'When the first letters came telling me I'd won large sums of money I thought it could be true and just what I needed as I'd lost so much money because of the effect on our business. I suppose the scammers caught me at a low ebb.'
When the situation was at its worst they were sending £300 in cash a week to the criminals. Over the years their son had tried to convince them that they were responding to scams and not genuine lotteries or prize draws but to no avail. The problem was so severe that their son was afraid his parents wouldn't be able to pay their household bills.
Mrs A helped Mr A reply to the letters and became heavily involved too. So much so that when Mrs A started to show signs of dementia, Mr A felt that the administration work involved with replying to scams would keep his wife's mind sharp; she continued to do this until it all got too much for her and she was no longer able to deal with it because of her condition.
When trading standards intervened Mr A realised the mail was scam mail. He took advantage of the mail redirection service so all the mail was redirected to their son.
After two weeks Mr A's son said:
'Progress has been excellent. I get all the scam mail now and have had 20 items in the past two days. Nothing reaches my parents now and for the first time in a long time I can see that there is more money going into my father's account than going out. The only money going out is to pay household bills. It's such a relief.'
It is important to note that Mr and Mrs A started to respond to scams during a period of vulnerability-the decline of their business.
Mr A's son estimates that his parents had been scammed to the tune of well over a £100,000 over the years.
National Trading Standards Scams Team
The National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team is funded by National Trading Standards and is hosted by East Sussex Trading Standards. The team was founded in 2012 to tackle the problem of postal, telephone and doorstep scams. The team works across England and Wales with trading standards and partner agencies to investigate scams and identify and support those who fall victim to them.
Postal, telephone and doorstep scams are often targeted specifically at disadvantaged consumers or those in periods of vulnerability. The NTS Scams Team estimates that the detriment to UK consumers as a result of these scams is between £5 and £10 Billion a year.
Aims of the National Trading Standards Scams Team are:
- To IDENTIFY victims of scams.
- To INTERVENE and protect victims from further victimisation.
- To INVESTIGATE criminal activity.
- To INFORM local authorities and agencies on how to work with and support scam victims.
- To INFLUENCE people at local, regional and national levels to TAKE A STAND AGAINST SCAMS.
The team receives information from a range of partner agencies who IDENTIFY potential victims of scams. The team then contacts the local trading standards service of those silent victims and enters into partnership agreements with them. These partnership agreements include a variety of ways in which local authorities can work together to INTERVENE and support their identified victims. Information is gathered about victims and best practice, which enables the team to INFORM local authorities and partner agencies of the most effective ways to work with and support scam victims.
The team aims to raise awareness of scams by producing resources and leading campaigns to INFLUENCE people at local, regional and national levels. The team has a wide range of active projects and campaigns, which cover a variety of needs and have had excellent results. The team's initiative Friends Against Scams aims to prevent and protect people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to "Take a Stand Against Scams".
The team acts on information received from various sources, including in-house projects, to INVESTIGATE the path of scam mail. Through tracing the path of money sent in response to scams, the team have had well documented success and continue to act on new leads to tackle fraudulent activities.
The NTS Scams Team is fighting for a scam free nation by "Taking a Stand Against Scams".