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Phone scams that promise punters non existent prizes are the UK's number one con, according to a survey by consumer group Which?.

A third of adults say they've received an automated call offering them the chance to claim a cash prize or holiday, while two million grown-ups have called a premium rate phone line charged at up to £1.50 a minute to try and claim their "prize".

Said Malcolm Coles, editor of Which?: "The con artists who run these scams are experts in fooling people into parting with their money. Unfortunately, it's rare to get something for nothing - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

In a bid to try and crack down on premium rate scams new legislation has just been introduced that sees the maximum fine for offenders increased from £100,000 to £250,000.

Speaking just before Christmas the head of regulator ICSTIS, George Kidd, said: "Our current fine limit of £100,000 is no longer sufficient to deal with the worst services we see.

"A new fine limit, combined with the other proposals in the Ofcom review to strengthen consumer protection, should ensure that the relatively small number of rogues out there do not continue to damage trust and confidence in the entire premium rate industry."

Elsewhere, the Which? survey also described the internet as a "breeding ground for scams". Its survey found that one of the most common cons is the so-called "Nigerian 419" email scam which offers to pay out huge wads of cash in return for an up-front fee, absolute secrecy and a foreign bank account number.

It goes without saying that punters never receive their cash. ®

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