Action day targets callous conmen
Gunning for the grifters
International organisations have teamed up to run a day of action against fraud on Tuesday 1 June.
Brits lose an estimated £3.5bn a year to mass mailing frauds, according to the organisers. Organisations from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands are involved.
Mass market scams take many forms including fake offers of romance, advance fee fraud (bogus inheritances and fake lottery wins) and pump-and-dump share price fraud.
Law enforcement agencies in the UK tasked with fighting fraud - the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the National Fraud Authority, the Office of Fair Trading, the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Services Authority - have joined together to encourage victims to report crime.
"Fraud is a terrible crime yet often people feel embarrassed when they become a victim and so stay silent," explained Bernard Herdan, chief exec of the National Fraud Authority. "We want every victim of fraud to report it to www.actionfraud.org.uk, to stand up to fraudsters and help us all work together to make the UK a more hostile environment for fraudsters."
Cybercrime awareness events such as Safer Internet Day litter the calendar. The focus of Tuesday's action is more on postal scams that cynically target the old and vulnerable.
Actions include blocking postal email before it reaches recipients and enforcement action against known crooks, along with the crucial element of raising awareness.
A UK government release on the action day give a list of tell-tale signs of possible scams, most of which are a matter of common sense. Tips include warnings not to provide money upfront for supposed prizes, to avoid giving information to strangers and to be wary of share schemes that promise guaranteed high yields.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing from the Met's economic and specialist crime command explained that the initiative is to raise awareness among those who are preyed on by persistent criminals. "Relatives of the elderly and vulnerable need to be aware of the dangers of mass marketing fraud - the effect this type of scam mail has on victims is hugely underestimated," he explained.
"We have seen some people sending significant sums of money, sometimes their life savings to criminals in the post or via money transfer."
Scams and frauds are often used to fund other crimes such as drug dealing and people trafficking, added SOCA fraud expert Colin Woodcock.
UK victims who have lost money to scams are encouraged to report them by contacting Action Fraud, either online at www.actionfraud.org.uk or freephone 0300 123 2040. ®