Thursday, February 07, 2008


We're all familiar with emails from exotic parts of Africa, promising us untold riches if we grease the wheels and help in the illegal transfer of funds. And maybe we've been sent letter telling us that we've somehow won a foreign lottery, but a registration fee is necessary to realease the money.

These scams have become so commonplace, my reaction has been to shrug and move on. With Cabinet responsibility for Public Protection, however, I've had my eyes opened to just how much damage these frauds do to some of the most vulnerable members of society. In Darlington in the last few months, we've had reported;

· A letter claiming the recipient has won the Spanish lottery, but asking for money and bank details before the prize can be released;
· A letter saying the recipient has won a prize, but must call a premium rate number to claim it;
· A company calling someone who has advertised their car for sale and persuading them to pay for more advertising - but the advert never appears.
That's why I was happy to launch the Scamnesty initiative in Darlington this week. It's a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the common scams and how to spot them.

Residents can bring examples they've been sent, and Trading Standards officers will investigate, or pass the complaints on to the relevant authorities where necessary.

For more information and advice about Trading Standards, call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.


Ian White, said...

Hi Nick

Given it a plug on the Liar!

Aeres said...

Would anybody really be upset if there was a maximum cap on premium rate telephone lines?

Ideally I'd like to see the things banned altogether (altruistic reasons only - I refuse to even use 0870 national rate numbers never mind premium rate) but I accept that big business is unlikely to let this happen. However, the phone companies could presumably sign up to a code of conduct which still allows them to take their cut whilst capping the ridiculous profiteering that these scammers utilise.

The problem comes by the blurring of 'scamming' with clever marketing. Are the scammers you referred to any more devious than a national chain store (and there are loads of them) who inflate prices just to reduce them in the sales, or bring out specific sales stock to sell. Next time you look around a department store in the sales check out the small signs which say for example 'this product has been sold at a higher price in 6 of our stores for 28 days in the past year'.

Letter of the law, I've no doubt - but the spirit of it? - Hmmmm. Who's scamming who exactly? And don't these regulations need tightening up as well?