Lou Baxter is manager of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, and she’s here to talk about postal scams. Has your letterbox been filled with scam mail? Lou wants to make sure you don’t suffer in silence.
Fighting scams and trying to help the people that are affected by scams has kind of become a personal battle of mine. I feel extremely passionately about the issue and want to get it to the top of as many people’s agendas as possible.
Historically, professionals were not aware of the scale of the scams problem. The Office of Fair Trading carried out a study in 2006 which detailed the estimated detriment at £3.5bn and at the National Scams Team we think it’s a much bigger problem, closer to £10bn.
We are currently working with national partners to identify the ‘silent victims’ of scams. Once we identify somebody as a potential victim we are passing this information to the local trading standards to get them to help and support that person. We currently have 116 local authorities signed up and we have measured £4.1m as the loss to 1,265 confirmed victims. This is a huge amount of money and works out to be more than £3,000 per person.
Prize draw scam mail
We recently came across an individual who was a victim of postal and telephone scams. He had posted back his phone number on one of the many prize draws, which got into the hands of the criminals operating scam companies. The victim was recently widowed and when the trading standards went to visit him the phone rang about 10 times in the course of one visit. When the officer answered the phone, the scammer hung up.
When the trading standards started to support him, they estimated he had lost around £150,000 to scams. They managed to prevent him from sending his details on anymore postal scams and estimate they saved him around £40,000. This is the sort of case that illustrates how we can help people, and we need to get to those who need our help the most.
As you’re probably aware, there are thousands of different types of scams, and it can get confusing and difficult to know how best to protect yourself and your friends and relatives.
This problem is massively under-reported. Many people feel shame or embarrassment at being caught out. We don’t want you to suffer in silence. We want you to help us encourage your neighbours, relatives and friends to report scams or attempted scams.
Get on the scam wagon and help us highlight this problem! How can we raise the profile of postal scams? And have you been affected by one?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Lou Baxter, National Trading Standards Scams Team manager. All opinions expressed are Lou’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.