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Highland Focus on Scams Awareness Month

11th February 2008

Trading Standards Officers of The Highland Council are taking part in a national campaign ~ Scams Awareness Month - to crack down on the misery and heartache caused by unscrupulous scammers, whose sole aim is to persuade consumers to part with their money.

Working jointly with the Office of Fair Trading, they are focusing on consumer education to help the public spot a scam and are encouraging the public to hand in to designated Council offices scam literature received this month.

Alistair Thomson, Head of Environmental Health and Trading Standards, hopes the campaign gets the message across to consumers not to be conned.

He said: "Consumers who fall victim to mass marketed scams can lose their life savings as a result. We want to stop the scammers in our area and save consumers the misery and heartache that sometimes can be caused by unscrupulous scammers."

He is encouraging consumers to drop off mailing scams to their local TECS offices or send them directly to Trading Standards Officers at their base at 38 Harbour Road, Inverness, so they can start to build a picture of the types of scams that are being perpetrated and educate consumers accordingly on how best to avoid them.

It has been estimated by the Office of Fair Trading that three million people every year fall victim to scams covering bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draws, sweepstakes and fake psychics, get quick rich schemes and miracle health cures by post, through email or over the phone. However, as only an estimated 5% of victims report any scam to the authorities, the figure may be a lot higher than three million. The total cost to the UK consumer is an estimated 3.5 billion a year.

Mr Thomson added: "Unscrupulous persons behind these types of scams are in it for the money. The only way to stop the scams is to stop consumers falling victim to them. We want consumers to help us by responding to this campaign."

If any member of the public has received a postal scam and would like to pass this on to the Council, they should drop this off at 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF. Consumers can also drop their scam letters in specially marked boxes in the following offices:

Caithness - Area Office, Market Square, WICK, KW1 4AB
Inverness - 21-23 Church Street, Inverness IV1 1DY
Lochaber - Fulton House, Gordon Square, Fort William PH33 6XY
Badenoch & Strathspey - Council Offices, Ruthven Road, Kingussie PH21 1EJ
Ross & Cromarty - Ross House, High Street, Dingwall IV15 9RY
Skye & Lochalsh ~ Broom Place, Dunvegan Road, Portree IV51 9HD
Sutherland - The Meadows, DORNOCH, IV25 3SG

OFT advice leaflets on ~How to recognise a scam~ are available directly from Highland Trading Standards or through local libraries throughout the Highlands.

Further Information

1. The awareness week runs until February 27. Collected mailings will be used by participating local authority Trading Standards Services and the OFT to aid intelligence gathering or inform investigations.

2. The local authorities taking part include Hampshire, Darlington, Yorkshire and the Humber, Salford, Scottish Highlands, Bracknell-Forest, Milton Keynes, Trafford, West Berkshire, Nottinghamshire, Reading, Leicestershire, Portsmouth, Wokingham, Buckinghamshire, Isle of Wight, Nottingham, Norfolk, Suffolk, Southend, Bedfordshire, Gloucestershire, St Helens, Southampton, Cornwall, Warrington, Blaenau Gwent, Oxfordshire, Derbyshire, Hull, North Lincolnshire, York, Essex, Stockport, Wirral, Lancashire, Scottish Highlands, Brighton, Dorset, South Gloucestershire, Poole, Edinburgh, Coventry, Belfast, Wolverhampton, Enfield, Dundee, Solihull, Talford, Walsall, Bournemouth, Kent, Dudley, Staffordshire and Stoke-On-Trent.

3. Scams Awareness Month is part of an annual international initiative organised by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network. The OFT has enlisted the support of local authority Trading Standards Services, Consumer Direct, the Advertising Standards Authority and other consumer and industry bodies.

4. The OFT's advice to anyone who receives a possible scam offer is: ~Stop, think, and think again~. Do not be rushed into sending off money straight away to someone you do not know. How likely is it that you have been especially chosen for this offer? ~ millions of other people are likely to have received the same offer. Think again ~ read the offer carefully. If you are unsure, speak to family or friends or seek advice.

5. If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or you suspect a scam, call Consumer Direct for clear, practical consumer advice on 08454 04 05 06 or www.consumerdirect.gov.uk.

6. Mass marketed scams are an OFT priority. In 2005 the OFT launched a Scambusters team and set up the Scams Enforcement Group with partner organisations focusing on law enforcement; consumer education; and cooperation with private sector businesses to disrupt scammers' routes to market.

 

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