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Consumer Direct: Reasure, don’t criticise victims of scams

Find out how to protect friends and family from scams 9th February 2009: Consumer Direct is now providing advice on how to recognise if friends and relatives are falling victim to scams such as bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draws and fake psychic mailings.

Every year, an estimated three million people in the UK fall victim to scams sent by post, email, text, the phone and internet, losing an average of £850 each. Although people from all age groups can become victims, research shows that older people are the most likely to be targeted and lose the most money.

Scams can have a devastating effect on people’s lives with many repeat victims losing their life savings and suffering ill health. The knock-on effects can also have a profound impact on victims’ families.

Someone regularly falling for mass market scams may: receive a lot of junk mail, have a house full of cheap-looking goods such as jewellery and health products, receive regular phone calls from strangers, and become secretive when discussing finances with family and friends.

Michele Shambrook, Operations Manager for Consumer Direct said: “The scammers are becoming increasingly clever and sophisticated and it’s all too easy to get taken in. If you think a friend or relative may be falling victim, ask questions, offer reassurance and advice, but try not to criticise as this may do more harm than good.”

Throughout February, Consumer Direct and the Office of Fair Trading are running a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of mass market scams.

TV presenter Angela Rippon, who recently launched Scams Awareness Month at an event in London said: “Scammers use psychological techniques to gain vulnerable people’s trust. They exploit fear and insecurity to steal as much money as they can from those who can least afford it. Though anyone can fall victim to a scam it is often the oldest that are hit the hardest.”

Information on the most common scams and advice on how to avoid them is available on the Consumer Direct website at http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk or by calling 08454 04 05 06.

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