Don't get scammed this Christmas
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is urging vulnerable groups, including older people, single parents and families on low incomes, to beware of scammers this Christmas. The festive season is a time when people are likely to fall victim to scams that promise quick and easy cash rewards, especially in the current economic climate.
Each year UK consumers lose £3.5 billion to scams with the average victim losing £850 – more than enough to buy a dream Christmas. Research carried out by the UK Office of Fair Trading has identified older consumers as more likely to be targeted by a scam but people of all ages can be caught out.
Common scams to be wary of include: bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draws and fake psychics. Scammers are also likely to prey on people wanting to slim down for the Christmas season with miracle slimming products. The repercussions can be devastating with many victims suffering depression, low self-esteem and their confidence destroyed.
Chairman of the OFT, Bill Henderson MHK, said “'Christmas is a special time of year but unfortunately it is also a period when many people are under financial and emotional pressure. This is also the time would-be scammers prey on people's vulnerability with bogus prize, gift and cash offers, amongst other things.'
He continued “Many people feel they could never be scammed, however many people do become victims. People of any age can be conned, but unfortunately this blight on our community, these unscrupulous fraudsters, often target older people. The best defence is to know what to look out for, and always remember that if it sounds too good to be true it almost certainly is. If you receive a telephone call, message on the answer phone, or letter asking you to do something or give personal details, DO NOT RESPOND. Put the phone down, or bin the letter. If in doubt ask a family member, ring the OFT or ask your MHK, who will be happy to advise. Under no circumstances should anyone act on a ‘cold call’ such as this.'
Penny Creighton, Chief Executive of Age Concern Isle of Man, supports this advice, saying “This is such excellent advice and so well timed. We have heard so many sad stories from elderly people who have trusted what they have read or been told. Please, please take note of this advice and you will not be scammed this Christmas.”
Pauline Wood, Fair Trading Officer, offers these tips to avoid being scammed this Christmas:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited letters, phone calls, or emails asking you to send money – check up on the sender and ask the opinion of family, OFT, friends, neighbours or your MHK.
- If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is – trust your gut instincts.
- Always think twice - ask yourself 'can I afford to lose money on this?'
- Never send money to anyone who say's you've won the lottery or a big prize – you'll never see your promised winnings.
- Don't be rushed into sending off money by time sensitive deadlines.#
- Never ring an 090 number unless you're certain how much the call will cost and know what you are likely to receive.
- Never disclose your bank account, credit card or personal details to people you don't know.
- Don't send money off just because a letter seems official. Scammers often use this trick. If you haven't heard of them check, before taking any action.
- Scammers often use fake testimonials to support their claims but don't let them fool you - make your own mind up.
- If in any doubt at all - don't reply.