What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Other names for a scam include fraud, hoax, con, swindle and cheat.

Scams Awareness is a yearly campaign developed by Citizens Advice which aims to create a network of confident, alert consumers who know what to do when they see a scam. This year’s campaign will take place over two weeks, from the 10th-23rd June. Citizens Advice has worked closely with the Consumer Protection Partnership to organise the campaign and prioritise areas that cause most harm to people.

Whether you’re an individual consumer looking to protect yourself and your family from scams, or an organisation or group representing consumers, your efforts during the campaign are important.

We are all being asked to spread the message that scams are crimes that can happen to anyone and we don’t need to be embarrassed if we fall victim to them.

Advice for consumers

There are three things that consumers can do if they suspect they’re the target of a scam:

●  Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06, or on 03454 04 05 05 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. You can also get advice and information online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/sa19. The Citizens Advice consumer service can also report problems to Trading Standards for you. Trading Standards are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.

●  Report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. (If debit cards, online banking or cheques are involved in the scam the consumer’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company. If the scam is a pension transfer, they need to contact the provider immediately, along with the Pensions Advisory Service).

●  Tell family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams and find out how to protect themselves.

Scams aren’t just a minor inconvenience to people. Aside from financial loss, they can cause distress, misery, and even if a scam has been avoided, it can lead to a widespread loss of consumer confidence. They can also happen to anyone. That’s why, as with previous Scams Awareness campaigns, we want to reduce the risk and impact of scams by raising awareness of the issue and encouraging people to take action – recognising, reporting, and talking about the issues.

If you want to get involved and help to promote the campaign electronic Scams Awareness campaign materials, which will be available online at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/sa19.

General facts about scams

●  The National Audit Office (NAO) recently estimated that individuals lose £10 billion a year due to fraud.

●  The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated there were 3.5 million incidents of fraud for the year ending September 2018.

●  Data from a recent CSEW suggests that only around 13% of fraud incidents are reported by the victim, either to the police or Action Fraud.

●  According to Citizens Advice research:

○ Almost three-quarters (72%) of people have been targeted by scammers in the last 2 years, either via mail, phone calls, text messages, emails, online, and face-to-face.

○ Over a third (37%) of people have been targeted 5 times or more.

○ Just over 1 in 10 people (11%) know friends or family members who have lost money to a scam.

○ Almost half (45%) of people have taken no action to protect themselves against scams in the last 12 months, and two-thirds (65%) have taken no action to help protect friends or family.

○ 7 out of 10 (68%) of people targeted by a scam do not tell anyone about it. This includes friends, family or the organisation being impersonated, as well as the relevant authorities.

●  The CSEW suggests that less than one-fifth of incidents of fraud either come to the attention of the police or are reported by the victim to Action Fraud.

Consumers can also do the following to cut down unwanted contacts:

Always check any forms that you fill in for tick boxes that say something like “I give permission for third parties to contact me by phone” or “I give you permission to contact me by email”. Don’t tick the boxes if you don’t want to be contacted.

Register their number with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk or 0345 070 0707. They can also register their mobile by texting ‘TPS’ and their email address to 85095.

●  Report unsolicited marketing calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office at https://ico.org.uk/concerns/marketing or 0303 123 1113.

●  Use a product to block telephone calls:   ○ Your phone company may have a blocking service or help available to protect people from nuisance calls. Call your companies customer service helpline to find out.

○ TrueCall – www.truecall.co.uk  

○ CallBlocker – www.cprcallblocker.co.uk