Don’t fall for scams

Liverpool Trading Standards are warning people to be on the lookout for any letter, website doorstep seller or phone call with a proposal that sounds too good to be true – it probably is!

The warning is part of the national campaign Scams Awareness Month which runs throughout May.

Scams are schemes designed to con people out of their money and they come in all different shapes and sizes – from online scams, lottery and clairvoyant postal scams, false dating websites to groom victims before asking for money and investment or ‘boiler room scams’ which involve high pressure sales techniques.

As part of the campaign Liverpool Trading Standards will be highlighting the issues of postal scams by contacting addresses in Liverpool which are suspected of being victims of postal scams. Up to 500 addresses will be visited or written to, to check whether the person is receiving a lot of scam mail and whether they need help stopping it.

Postal scams can be a particular problem for elderly or vulnerable people living alone. These are usually mailshots sent out asking people to make a payment towards poor quality goods or to collect lottery ‘winnings’.

The postal scams look official and imply that the person has won or been allocated a ‘share’ in a foreign based lottery – such as the Spanish, Australian or American lottery. In order to receive their ‘share’ the person is asked to send a ‘release  or administration fee’, but all this does is ensure that more and more letters are sent asking for more and more money.

During a recent visit by trading standards it was discovered that an elderly women in North Liverpool was receiving up to 40 mailshots a day, all asking her to send money for lotteries, clairvoyants and cheap costume jewellery. The amounts asked for varied between £5 and £80 and none of the offers she was replying to were genuine.

She was sending hundreds of pounds a month to the scammers and had become anxious that she would miss out if she didn’t continue the payments and was afraid to stop.

Councillor Peter Brennan, Mayoral Lead on Community Safety, said; “The people behind these scams prey on vulnerable people, especially the elderly and this campaign aims to put a stop to their activities.

“However tempting it may appear you are not going to win large sums of money from lotteries you have never heard about. It is difficult enough to win on the National Lottery – you are certainly not going to win on a lottery you have not bought a ticket for.

“Our advice is when you get a letter or e-mail saying you may have won money or a prize but you have to send a fee to claim then just ignore it – it is a scam.”

Trading Standards give the following advice for dealing with scams:

● If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
● You shouldn’t have to pay anything to win a prize
● Unless you’ve bought a ticket, you can’t win a lottery
● If in doubt, don’t reply, just bin or delete it, or hang up the phone
● Be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue
● Don’t suffer in silence – tell others about scams
What to do if you have been scammed:

● Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others
● Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or seek online advice at http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/