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£3.5 m lost to scammers

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February is Scams Awareness Month at the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which has calculated that Britons are conned out of £3.5bn each year by unscrupulous fraudsters using a variety of media to commit their crimes.

Bogus holiday clubs account for the biggest chunk of money fraudulently obtained, standing at a massive £1.17bn a year, or 400,000 victims losing an average of £3,030 each.

Also up in the big numbers, fake foreign lotteries fleece 140,000 consumers of £260m a year.

Next in the list of shame are prize draw and sweepstake frauds which inform victims that they have won a cash prize that can be claimed in exchange for a fee.

Another variation is to tempt people into calling premium rate 090 numbers to claim a non-existent prize – costing a minimum of £1.50 a minute – and keeping them on the line for as long as possible. More than a million people lost £80min this way last year.

Slightly lower down the league, ‘miracle’ health and slimming cures account for £20m a year, and over 170,000 adults fall for the fake clairvoyant scam, in this case a lot of personal futures being revealed for a collective £40m a year.

Mike Haley, head of Scambusters at OFT, said: “Scammers have become more sophisticated and ruthless, using Internet, email and text messaging to go about their work.

“These scams deeply affect people, with the most vulnerable, like the elderly, suffering most.”

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