Scams like fake careers, tickets and phishing are on the rise – and we’re all potential victims. But before writing them off as something only stupid people fall for, consider that one in 20 lost money to a scam last year.
If you’ve ever fallen victim to a scam – big or small – the default reaction is a mixture of rage, shame and embarrassment.
Trust me, I know the feeling. About two years ago, I ended up losing £90 when I bought concert tickets from a fake website. Plus I never got to see the concert.
Worse than that, I’ve seen close family members and friends conned by timeshare tricksters, boiler room bluffers and career-opportunity conmen. The fact is, no matter how savvy you think you are, scammers are often smarter – after all, it’s what they do for a living – and anyone can fall prey to a well-timed and well-executed con.
Scams on the rise
Recent figures from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) show that more than 3.5 million adults fall victim to scams every year, losing a total of £3.5 billion. And, according to charity Age UK, it’s older people who are more likely to be targeted. The research reported that those aged between 70 and 79 made up a fifth of all victims.
In addition, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) recently wrote to 49,000 people whose names appeared on a boiler room hit list. The FSA said this was the biggest single document compiled by share fraudsters to date.
With scams on the rise and scammers getting ever more devious in their methods, the OFT has launched Scams Awareness Month today to help consumers recognise and reject scams.
So what are the most common scams? Landbanking schemes fool you into buying a cheap plot of land with the promise of planning permission, which is unlikely to materialise. Money-transfer scams involve unsolicited letters or emails asking for help getting money out of a foreign country. And we’ve all seen those too-good-to-be-true ‘work from home and earn hundreds’ ads – guess what? They’re often scams too.
Scams going unreported
These may seem obvious, but they’re easy to fall for – and there are many other common scams besides these. The real problem is that many victims don’t report scams to the police because they feel embarrassed. But we can only beat them if we work together – and share information about their latest tactics as soon as we see them.
The best way to beat the fraudsters is to get the word out to others and stop them becoming victims.
If you feel you’ve been conned, contact your local police or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.