It is week two of the Citizens Advice Scams Awareness Month which 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 of any age group 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.
Having grown up surrounded by technology younger people are often confident in their ability in using technology which could make them vulnerable to scams as they feel comfortable with what they are doing and let their guard down. Research shows this group are most susceptible to become victims of online subscription traps, especially those that pop up on Social Media sites.
Common Online scams
- Social Media - 52% of people on Social media don't read the terms and conditions when signing up to a new social media app, so have no idea how many of their private details and communications are being shared with others. 44% of people admitted they didn't realise social media platforms have the right to distribute and share the things they post, potentially for advertising purposes. We fail to take sensible precautions when it comes to privacy settings too. While 78% of Facebook users have heeded warnings about privacy, only 14% of snapchat users apply privacy settings, and one in ten have no privacy settings on their social media accounts.
- Job Search scams - The UK has experienced a significant rise in the number of job scams over the past two years, according to SAFERjobs (Safe Advice for Employment and Recruitment). The number of scams reported to the non-profit fraud fighting organisation rose by 300% in 2016; 380 reports were made between September 2014 and September 2015, but jumped to an alarming 1,241 between the same period in 2016.
- Internet dating - The number of people defrauded in the UK by online dating scams reached a record high in 2016. According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, there were 3,889 victims of so-called romance fraud last year, who handed over a record £39m. Action Fraud, the UK's cyber-crime reporting centre, says it receives more than 350 reports of such scams a month.
- Event Tickets - The sale of fraudulent tickets is a booming industry and many victims are targeted through social media. Action Fraud figures suggest rates of the crime have grown by 55% since 2014 but this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg, since it is believed to be massively under-reported.
Take a stand against online scams
- Make sure online payments are secure, check for the padlock symbol and ensure you are using a https address, `s` stands for secure and encrypted.
- Use well known and reputable sites when purchasing online.
- Never transfer money directly into someone’s bank account, use a secure payment site such as PayPal.
- Never give out bank details or personal details to unknown sources.
- Beware of people asking you to transfer money, even when an online relationship has been built up.
- Review your privacy settings on all social media accounts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 “We estimate that only 5 - 8% of victims actually report being scammed. Despite having a campaign like Scams Awareness Month every year, we are still hearing of cases where people have lost thousands of pounds to scams. It is evident that we need to promote the work of the SAFER Project to continue raising awareness among residents so they know how to spot a scam and report it before becoming a victim.”
Councillor Pauline Grahame, of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said: “Fraudsters use sophisticated techniques to con people of all ages and because they vary their methods, it can be tricky to spot when something is a scam. If you come across something that seems suspicious, seek advice so you don’t put yourself at risk. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!”