SCAMS which promise a cash windfall top the list of methods used by criminals to trick people in Lancashire out of their money or personal details.
An annual snapshot of scams has shown that fake prize draws are the biggest danger, accounting for over half of all scams.
The “Scamnesty” campaign carried out by Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service and Lancashire Constabulary in February resulted in 570 uninvited letters and e-mails being handed in by the public. Prize draws accounted for 56%.
Other popular scams related to fake lotteries (14%), so-called psychics (17%) and a variety of “phishing” hoaxes designed to con people out of their bank details or other valuable personal information (12%).
County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the trouble to put the scams they received in one of our Scamnesty bins. While scams are a massive problem, with some people being conned out of very large sums, only one-in-20 victims report them, making it very difficult to target prevention and take action against those responsible.
“The intelligence gathered through Scamnesty will help us to continue to raise awareness of the types of scam out there and warn people what to watch out for.”
This is the second year that Scamnesty has been carried out in Lancashire – prize draws were also the top scam in 2011. Lotteries have increased by 10% and phishing by 12%. Scams involving so-called psychics and clairvoyants, which seek to exploit vulnerable people by getting them to send money to receive messages from dead relatives or avoid some future misfortune, have reduced by 2%.
Lancashire Constabulary fraud evaluation and liaison officer DC Tony McClements said: “Anyone can be affected by a scam – they are becoming ever more sophisticated, particularly those based on the internet.
“You don’t necessarily have to lose money to a scam for it to cause a problem – simply by responding you will give those running it the impression that you may be an easy target and can end up being bombarded with letters.
“The offers on many of the leaflets and letters that were handed in were appealing – they were designed to hook victims – but we always warn that if they look too good to be true then they probably are.”
l Scams are a massive hidden problem, with victims often too embarrassed to report them. Estimates put the cost to Lancashire residents alone at £64m. annually, with 76,000 people becoming victims every year. Those uncovered by this year’s Scamnesty could have cost Lancashire residents more than £400,000 had they responded.
If you think you have been affected by a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 1232040. For advice on scams, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service line on 0845 4040506.