The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) warned today that an estimated five million UK citizens lose up to £1bn a year to online and offline mass-marketing scams.
The government agency said that some of the well documented frauds still taking in the public include lottery scams, 'miracle' health or slimming cures, and the ever-popular 419 con beloved of Nigerian fraudsters.
Once someone has sent money or personal information showing that they are susceptible to a particular type of scam, they are usually placed on a 'sucker list' by the scammers and targeted repeatedly.
One of the top scams identified by the OFT is the 419 advance fee scam which typically arrives as an email or fax from a 'top official' and offers a share of a large sum of money in return for using the recipient's bank account to transfer money out of the country.
The OFT also warned people not be taken in by prize draw mailings or emails
telling them that they have won a major prize in a competition and need only
send an administration or registration fee. The prize may never materialise or
is of low value.
Another danger is the so-called foreign lottery scam which centres on mailings, emails or phone calls congratulating the recipient on a substantial win in a foreign lottery. To claim the prize they must send money for 'administrative fees and taxes'.
Clairvoyant and psychic mailings are also highlighted by the OFT as a growing fraud. In this scam letters from a clairvoyant promising good luck (e.g. winning lottery numbers) or predicting bad omens are sent out requesting that recipients send money for an 'intervention' from the psychic to prevent the bad luck.
OFT chief executive John Fingleton said: "Do not think that you can't be taken in by a scam. We may believe we are too savvy or streetwise to fall for these cons, but they target different people in different ways to exploit our weaknesses and take our money."
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