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Don't let them con you

05 February 2008

Carers UK is backing Scams Awareness Month - a new campaign to highlight the plight of elderly victims who suffer in silence. Scams Awareness Month 2008 is set to raise awareness of mass marketed scams, which cost the UK public £3.5billion a year.

Every year an estimated three million UK consumers fall victim to scams sent by post, email, text, the phone and 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. Research by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) 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.

Advice for carers

Carers UK is helping to raise awareness of the plight of elderly serial victims of scams and provide advice on how to recognise and help such victims. The OFT has unveiled a new leaflet specifically for carers and care professionals, 'Can you stop the person you care for from being scammed?' and there is also an accompanying leaflet, 'Don't Let them Con You'.

Those who care for older people are being asked to look out for warning signs that the person may be a scam victim. Does the person you care for :

Receive a lot of junk mail?

Have a house full of cheap-looking goods such as jewellery or health products?

Receive frequent calls from strangers?

Become secretive when discussing finances with family and friends?

The OFT advice to those that receive possible scam offer is: 'Stop, think, and think again'. Do not be rushed into sending off money to someone you do not know. How likely is it that you have been especially chosen for this offer? Millions of people are likely to have received the same offer. Think again - read the mailing carefully. If you are unsure, speak to family or friends and seek advice.

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 being 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.'

If you think you or someone you care for have been the victim of a scam, or you suspect a scam, call Consumer Direct for clear, practical consumer advice on 08454 04 05 06





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