Scams awareness month – Online scams

Friday 7 July

Citizens Advice Scams Awareness Month is running throughout July 2017.  West Yorkshire Trading Standards is supporting the campaign urging residents to be #scamaware by spreading the word about scams and exposing the tactics of fraudsters.

Scammers use a variety of tactics to get people to part with their cash.   Between October 2015 to October 2016 Action Fraud reported that £10.9 billon was lost to the UK economy as a result of fraud.

 Common online scams

  • Phishing emails – these are unsolicited, urgent in nature and contain harmful links designed to trick people into revealing personal and/or financial details. By spoofing emails, email addresses, websites and payment services, scammers can trick people into believing they are dealing with genuine organisations such as banks, traders and/or authorities.
  • Subscription traps or free trial scams – unscrupulous companies use ‘free’ trials to trick people into entering an ongoing subscription. Many offer health and beauty related products such as slimming pills or skin creams.
  • Romance scams – scammers set up fake profiles and the victim believes they have met the perfect partner through an online dating website or app. The fraudster then forms a relationship with the victim and use the site to gain the victim’s trust and ask for money or they may harvest enough personal information to steal the victim’s identity.  NFIB (National Fraud Intelligence Bureau) reported that UK Consumers lost £39m to dating scams in 2016.
  • Holiday scams – fraudster set up fake websites offering cheap rates to entice the victim to purchase a holiday. Images from genuine websites may be used. Victims are asked to pay up front by bank transfer.  The victim may not know they’ve been scammed until they arrive at the airport and there is no flight or when they arrive at the holiday destination to find the accommodation doesn’t exist or someone else is in the property or the hotel is fully booked.  Action Fraud reported a 19% increase in holiday scams in 2016 and cost UK Consumers £7.2m.    

Take a Stand against Internet Scams

  • Be wary of emails from unknown sources asking you for personal information.
  • Set up a junk mail filter to stop unwanted emails entering your account.
  • Always go to an organisation’s official website to get information, don’t follow links within emails.
  • Make sure your payments online are secure, look for the padlock symbol in the address bar.
  • Say no to strangers offering to put money in your account, this could be illegal.

Since 2012, West Yorkshire Trading Standards has been running the ‘SAFER Project’ which is funded by the Big Lottery, and has delivered over 1,100 awareness raising workshops to older people and vulnerable adults in West Yorkshire, in order to educate residents on the various tactics that scammers use. The SAFER Project are working with professionals and community groups to deliver a further 32 workshops throughout Scams Awareness Month.

If you would like the SAFER team to visit your community group to talk about scams and fraud, please email safer@wyjs.org.uk for more information. The workshops are free to community groups working with older people.

What to do if you have been scammed

  • Get advice and report it to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0345 404 0506 or online at citizensadvice.org.uk.
  • Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
  • It’s not always possible to get your money back if you've been scammed, and handed over cash.
  • If you've paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.

David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards said: “People of all ages are being tricked out of hundreds of pounds by internet fraudsters. It is important to stay safe online when using email, social media and shopping sites, and to report any potential scams to Citizens Advice and Action Fraud.”

Councillor Pauline Grahame, Member of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said: “I whole heartedly back this campaign, and support the ‘take a stand against scams’ message. This month we are reinforcing the key messages for people to be cautious as fraudsters will use any means to con people out of their money”.