Jul 07

Scam Awareness Month – How to protect yourself


Blackpool residents are being urged to help expose scams and stop others falling prey to clever cons that can fleece them out of thousands of pounds.

Blackpool Council and Citizens Advice Blackpool have teamed up for Scams Awareness Month which runs throughout July and will be highlighting how scams continue to flourish when people stay silent.

Figures show that less than five per cent of victims report scams to the authorities.

As a result both agencies are encouraging residents to report suspicious activities, get advice if they think they’ve been conned and to warn others to help stop scams from spreading.

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We’re working with Citizens Advice Blackpool to highlight the risk of scams throughout Scams Awareness Month.

“If any residents would like to report a scam, or have been a victim of one, we would appreciate them making contact with us and can assure them of our confidentiality at all times.

“We can also make personal visits to our more vulnerable residents in their own homes if they would be more comfortable discussing their enquiry with us directly.”

Residents can also ask questions about scams via the Q&A service offered at Blackpool Council’s website page www.blackpool.gov.uk/consumer, through our Twitter and Facebook pageswww.facebook.com/bpoolcouncil and www.twitter.com/bpoolcouncil or by calling 01253 478375.

Tracy Hopkins, Chief Executive Officer from Citizens Advice Blackpool, added: “Scams thrive on silence.

“Fraudsters know that victims are often too ashamed to share what happened to them, meaning that scams can continue to spread unchecked.

“Scams are run by professional con artists and it can be very hard to know what to look out for. Our advice is that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“If you’re contacted out of the blue be on your guard, and never give your bank details out unless you are certain you know who the person is and that you can trust them.”

Residents can contact Citizens Advice Bureau on 01253 308400.

Scams come in every form from doorstep offers of cheap work carried out on your property to online investment offers.

People may be targeted with “vishing” calls where a fraudster impersonates their bank to collect their bank details or by bogus companies offering computer services.

Online scams include dodgy job adverts and offers for goods and services, while mail scams may ask victims to pay a fee in order to claim their winnings from a prize draw they haven’t entered.

The Scams Awareness Month campaign is asking people to keep two things in mind when they receive an unsolicited approach or when they are looking for goods or services; don’t be rushed and don’t be hushed.

People should take their time to make a decision and get their facts together before parting with their money or personal information and speak out when they think they’ve spotted a scam.

Our top tips for avoiding scams are:

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • It you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it
  • You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize
  • If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up
  • Contacted out of the blue? – be suspicious.
  • Don’t be rushed – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
  • Never send money to someone you have never met.
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
  • Your bank will never attend your home to collect cash, your pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud.
  • Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password.
  • Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.
  • Suspect a phone scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank.
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams.

Scams to watch out for

  • Pensions scams – Phrases such as “one-off investment opportunities”, “free pension reviews”, “legal loopholes”, “cash bonus”, “up-front cash sum”, “government endorsement”, “pension liberation,” are commonly used in pension scams. The initial approach is often an out-of-the-blue phone call, text or email or even sometimes a doorstep caller. Or it could be via an imitation website. Scammers may offer early access to pension pots for people aged under 55 even though this is only possible in exceptional circumstances.
  • Online shopping and auction scams – internet shoppers get lured into buying phantom cars, mobile phones, pets or anything else you can buy online. Scammers use a range of tricks including bogus websites, spoofed payment services and “second chance offers” tempting losing bidders with bogus opportunities. Online property market places are also infiltrated by scammers harvesting legitimate property details and posing as landlords.
  • Investment fraud – also called “boiler room” scams because of the high pressure sales technique employed. Shares remain the most common product offered, but they also ask for investment in carbon credits, land, and rare earth metals.
  • Dating scams – using online dating websites scammers groom victims into long-distance relationships using emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. Once they are confident of the victim’s trust, scammers will tell them about a problem they are experiencing and ask for financial help.
  • Software scams – fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it gives a mask of legitimacy to their cruel schemes. Methods include asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of operating systems, stealing personal information, and installing malware before charging to remove it.
  • Courier scams (a form of vishing) – where people receive unsolicited telephone calls from scammers posing as police or their bank warning of a fraudulent payment on their card or that their card is due to expire. The fraudster will then attend the person’s address or send an innocent courier company driver to collect the card and sometimes provide them with a “replacement” fake card.