From our first purchase to our last, scammers are waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting, the vulnerable, the shopper short of time, the consumer looking for the bargain.
This month is National Scams Awareness Month and Citizens Advice and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, local Citizens Advice and trading standards offices, are sending out strong beware of being scammed messages.
Scams come in all shapes and sizes – from the rogue trader charging for unwanted and badly done driveways to the fake, and potentially life threatening products, bought on-line.
Throw into that mix email scams with non-existent lottery wins that demand payment up front, and are followed up by an endless stream of more and more threatening scam mail, and investment opportunities that are based on thin air and can rob someone of their life savings, and the picture becomes grim.
Research has shown that 45 to 60 year olds are most impacted, and by a wide range of scams, often loosing large amounts of money. But there is also a disturbing rise in the number of 18 to 24 year-olds being scammed – and this is the group least likely to report a scam.
The message of this year’s Scams Awareness month is, ‘Play your part, act on scams’. We are calling on the public to be more aware of how they could be scammed, and to report it if they get caught out. With so many vulnerable being snagged by scammers there is no reason to be embarrassed – and every reason to report incidents and help the authorities put a stop to it.
Neil Clark, trading standards manager at North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “Last month a trader is reported to have block paved the drive of a homeowner in Grimsby without her consent.
“He called at her house and offered to pave the drive for £1,500, but she never agreed to having the work done.
“The following day the woman returned home to find the drive had been block paved and part of a brick wall had also been knocked down. She confronted the trader but he became aggressive and demanded payment in cash.
“She gave him £750 but he threatened to return for full payment. He had breached her statutory right to a 14 day cooling off period and legally she did not have to pay him a penny.
“This is a worrying case where the trader is reported to have threatened the homeowner into handing over a significant amount of cash for work she didn’t even agree to have done.”
Cllr Dave Bolton, portfolio holder for safer communities and public protection, added: “Unfortunately this type of crime is becoming more prevalent.
“If you or someone you know has been targeted by a rogue trader in this way, please get in touch.
“Report it in confidence to trading standards via www.nelincs.gov.uk/scams or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.”
Leon Livermore, Chartered Trading Standards Institute chief executive said: “Too many people are suffering from being scammed in silence and criminals getting away with their money – in some cases to the point where the victim need to sell their very home to pay them off. This campaign to raise awareness is vital –and we want people to not only report on being scammed but to look out for each other.”
Know of a scam, or being scammed – be scam aware and call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.