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UK consumers lose an estimated £1bn a year on cons and scams, according to figures released today by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Launching a month-long campaign warning about the perils of dodgy dealings, the OFT said punters need to do more to protect themselves from being ripped off

Among the OFT's top ten scams are:

Canadian lottery scam and the El Gordo Spanish lottery scam. Punters receive a call or email congratulating them on winning a big prize - but have to pay a fee or taxes before they can collect their winnings.

Premium rate telephone number scams - call a pricey premium rate line to claim some non-existent holiday.

The 419 Nigerian fraud - sob story commonly sent via email asking for cash upfront in a bid to release oodles of cash which will then be shared. Yeah, right.

Matrix schemes - blow £20 on a ringtone or whatever to join a mile-long queue of people to win an iPod or other gadget.

Said Christine Wade, director of consumer regulation enforcement at the OFT: "Scammers are resourceful, enterprising, and manipulative. By exploiting the same routes to market as legitimate business, they damage not only individual consumers, but the interests of fair-trading businesses as well." ®

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Anatomy of a 419 scam

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