From “green energy” installations to bogus investments and romance scams, as part of Scams Awareness Month 2017 Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards is highlighting some of the scams that are costing Warwickshire residents thousands.
Owners of solar panels are increasingly being targeted by bogus companies falsely claiming that additional components are needed to improve safety or efficiency. One Warwickshire resident paid over £4000 for a ‘magic box’ that was meant to improve the efficiency of his solar panel water heating device. Instead it did the opposite – his solar panels ended up giving out heat from his boiler to the outside air.
Some Warwickshire residents are also contacting the service after falling victim to romance scams, often via online dating websites. One resident reported losing over £30,000 after being contacted online by someone she thought was in the American Army. The fraudster established a relationship with the victim and convinced her to send money to an account in Turkey in order to support her ‘new partner’s’ imminent retirement. The fraudsters even sent bogus photographs and regularly spoke to the victim over the phone.
Scammers are also targeting residents with large savings and those who have ‘unlocked’ their pensions, with bogus investment opportunities. One Warwickshire resident was convinced to ‘invest’ in pink diamonds from the world’s last pink diamond mine. It is believed that he may have sent over £50,000 to fraudsters who contacted him over the phone.
Warwickshire County Councillor Howard Roberts, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said:
“Most of us will have been targeted by a fraudster at one time or another, over the phone, on the internet, through the post and even occasionally at the door. Reports of scams and frauds have increased by 8% this year to an estimated 3.6 million cases and £10.9 billion pounds is being lost to fraudsters annually.”
“Recognising a scam is our best defence against scammers and fraudsters. Our goal throughout this month is to raise awareness of scams, how to spot them and how to protect people from falling victim to them.”
How to avoid being scammed
- Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request – whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
- Never pay upfront, for example if someone asks you to pay in advance for a loan or to receive a prize.
- When dating online, always use a reputable website. Avoid revealing too many personal details and never agree to send or receive money, whatever their story.
- Be wary of any investments that promise unusually high returns, particularly if they involve investing in unusual and/or unregulated investment products such as land, wine, gems or art.
- Never be pressured, threatened or scared in to making a quick decision. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert or just tell a friend.
Make a consumer complaint
The Citizens Advice Consumer Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Call the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 (English language).
Keep ahead of the latest scams targeted at Warwickshire residents by signing up to Warwickshire Trading Standards email alert system: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/scams