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OFT launches scams awareness campaign

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The Office of Fair Trading has launched its 2008 Scams Awareness Month to raise awareness of mass-marketed scams which cost the UK public £3.5bn a year.

Every year an estimated three million UK consumers fall victim to scams sent by post, email, text, phone and the internet. One of the main themes of this year’s campaign is to highlight the hidden misery of thousands of elderly and vulnerable consumers who repeatedly fall victim to scams such as bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draw and sweepstakes, fake psychics and miracle health cures.

Anyone can fall for a scam but the elderly are often hit hardest. OFT research shows that older victims are likely to lose nearly twice as much per scam as others. Victims are often socially isolated, over-trusting or afflicted by illnesses such as dementia and can be repeatedly targeted by the scammers. Many lose their life savings and suffer depression and ill health as a result.

The OFT has unveiled a leaflet for carers and care professionals, ‘Can you stop the person you care for from being scammed?’ and an accompanying leaflet, ‘Don’t Let them Con You’, which can be downloaded on the OFT website.

The OFT is working with partners such as Carers UK, Help the Aged, Age Concern, Citizens Advice, Action on Elder Abuse, Neighbourhood Watch, housing associations and local authority trading standards services to raise awareness of the plight of elderly serial victims of scams and provide advice on how to recognise and help such victims.

Mike Haley, OFT director of consumer protection, said: “Scammers use sophisticated psychological techniques to target people who are often the most vulnerable in society. Those who fall for these scams not only lose their savings, but often live in fear, suffering debt and depression and are too afraid to tell anyone of their plight. We want to ask family members, carers and others to help spot the warning signs before it is too late.”


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