We are supporting Scams Awareness 2019, aimed at helping equip consumers with the tools they need to spot, report and talk about scams. Through raising awareness we also want to combat and reduce the potential risk and impact of scams.
As a member of the Consumer Protection Partnership, we’re working with partner organisations such as Citizens Advice and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute to educate people and provide practical tips on how to avoid falling for scams.
Scams affect all sections of society; collectively, individuals across the UK are losing an estimated £10 billion a year due to fraud.
Often people don’t think they’ll be duped; in particular those in the ‘life established’ group, primarily those mid-40 to mid-60s, are least likely to think they will be a victim of a scam. But no-one is immune; scams are widespread and can be sophisticated. They can use the latest technology, targeting people online, through emails and social media platforms, or they can take the form of tried and tested methods such as doorstop selling, unsolicited letters and cold calling.
While there is an obvious financial detriment attached to scams – a recent National Audit Office report revealed that the average financial loss to scam victims aged between 75-79 years old is £4,500 – there can also be longer term and equally detrimental impacts on people’s self-esteem. Those who fall victim to scams often feel a sense of shame. That stigma can also lead to an under-reporting of scams, with victims embarrassed to come forward.
What is the ASA’s role in helping to tackle scams?
By and large we regulate the advertising of legitimate businesses, however we will always take action where we can to stop bogus ads from appearing.
In terms of online scams, it often involves us working with social media platforms such as Google and Facebook to have problem ads taken down. And we work with other partners, including law enforcement bodies such as National Trading Standards as well as other regulators, to take action against those who are engaged in fraud. We also liaise with our counterparts across Europe and globally through a cross-border cooperative. We can and will refer cases to the body in the country where the problem ad originated from.
Tips for consumers
If you or someone you know – be they a relative, friend or colleague – has seen or heard an ad that you think could be fraudulent or a scam, let us know. It takes less than five minutes to fill out our online form. We’ll assess it for you and if it is bogus we’ll take what measures we can to have it removed and report it to the relevant authorities or regulatory partners.
- If a deal sounds too good to be true it often is – err on the side of caution and don’t make a snap decision when making a purchase
- If you haven’t heard of a company, do some research through customer review sights and testimonials to check they’re legitimate before parting with your money
- If you are at all unsure about the business you’re dealing with, do not provide your bank account details
Citizens Advice has also provide the following tips to help consumers be more scam aware.
If you’re worried that someone you know has become victim to a scam, look out for the following. Are they:
- Receiving more mail than usual?
- Receiving unsolicited calls or spending more time on the phone?
- Struggling with money or have they withdrawn large amounts of cash recently?
If you think someone you know is being scammed, take the following steps:
- If you’re worried about telephone scams look into installing a call blocker
- Encourage them to tell their bank immediately if there is any suspicious activity or transactions from their account or credit cards
- Report the scam to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service online or by phone on 03454 04 05 06. They will give you advice on what to do next and report the scam to Trading Standards.
- If the scam took place in the last 24 hours, report it to the police
- Report the scam to Action Fraud
- If they’re struggling to pay bills or outstanding debts encourage them to visit their local Citizens Advice
You can also take the following steps to safeguard yourself and others:
- Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
- Never send money to someone you’ve never met
- Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
- Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away and if you feel pressured say “no”
- Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
- Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams
Citizens Advice is urging anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam to report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06, or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers. Citizens Advice will give advice on what to do next and report the scam to Trading Standards.
Scams can also be reported to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre.
Stop, report, talk: Be #scamaware
- Legal and regulation
- Online, catch-up TV and radio, in-app and in-game
- Mailings, email, phone/fax and messaging