Trading Standards is warning people to be aware of phone scams as criminals try to take advantage of phone users goodwill by scamming them out of thousands of pounds.
With July being National Scam month, Trading Standards estimate mass marketing postal and telephone frauds, criminals get away with an estimated £5 billion a year.
However there is some guidance on how individuals can help themselves and their family avoid these pitfalls.
The majority of frauds are through telephone contacts. Many of these calls are from believable characters who prey on consumers’ inherent trust and are normally aimed at getting bank details from them by fraudulent means whether to ‘transfer funds to another bank account’ or to give access to their computer where the fraudsters steal card numbers and payment details.
Councillor Michael McPake, Convener of the Environmental Services Committee that oversees Trading Standards matters at North Lanarkshire Council, said: “Scams aren’t a minor inconvenience: they cause distress and misery, they ruin lives in some cases and, even where the losses are comparatively low, they lead to a widespread loss of consumer confidence.
“One pensioner received a call telling her that she’d won third place in the Australian lottery and 250,000 pounds (not Australian dollars) were hers ‘once she sent cover for taxes and admin for £1,400.50. Fortunately, she was savvy enough to call TS to check, but knew that as she hadn’t bought a ticket, she couldn’t really be a winner.”
Even mobile phone users are not immune to scams such as Smishing, where text messages are used to lure people into scam websites or inviting them to call premium rate numbers or download malicious content.
Councillor McPake added; “If you are contacted out of the blue, be suspicious. Banks would never ask you for passwords over the phone and genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. If you suspect a phone scam, hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank”.
The Trading Standards service has put in place a call blocking system for consumers at risk whereby 62 trueCall units have been issued and have, over the last twelve months, blocked nearly 40,000 nuisance calls to vulnerable adults. The recipients are registered with the Telephone Preference Service and any UK companies or scammers who try to contact these consumers can be reported to the Information Commissioner, who has the power to issue substantial fines to offenders.
Anyone can register their number with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk, or by phoning them on 0345 070 0707.