About 3 million Britons are being cheated of 3.5 billion pounds a year by fraudsters who solicit money by letter, e-mail, text and telephone
About 3 million Britons are being cheated of 3.5 billion pounds ($6.16 billion) a year by fraudsters who solicit money by letter, e-mail, text and telephone, the UK Office of Fair Trading, said yesterday.
Fewer than one in 20 victims report their experience, but trading watchdogs hope to help consumers fight back after a survey revealed the scale of the problem for the first time.
A nationwide campaign in February asking the public for examples of scam mailings they had received showed just how rife rip-offs have become.
Misleading sweepstakes and prize draws, fake clairvoyants, bogus foreign lotteries and miracle health cures were among the most common cons being perpetrated among more than 15,000 mailings passed to 50 of the 200 local authority trading standards offices in England, Wales and Scotland.
Mike Haley, the OFT's director of consumer protection, said: "The huge range of mailings uncovered by the Scamnesty campaign illustrate there really is a scam for everyone."
The OFT said people targeted by scam offers should "not be rushed into sending off money straight away to someone you do not know. If you are unsure, speak to family or friends or seek advice." It added: "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
The organization urged people to report suspected cons to Consumer Direct, a government-funded advice service. New consumer protection regulations ban 31 practices.
Maximum fines of up to 5,000 pounds and up to six months' imprisonment can be imposed by magistrates, while more serious offences heard in crown courts can be punished by unlimited fines and up to two years' imprisonment.
Marilyn Baldwin believes her mother, Jessica, who lived in Derby in central England, gave scammers about 50,000 pounds after being targeted through a "suckers list" circulated between cheats.
She died last November aged 83, after becoming in her final years "more and more hooked as the amount of mail increased. Some days she would receive around 30 letters a day. It didn't take long before she started to send away all her pension except for around 15 pounds a week she would keep to live off."
Her mother had also received threatening phone calls at her home.
Baldwin said the Royal Mail should do more to stop fraudsters, especially if staff noticed an unusually large amount of mail being delivered to particular addresses.
But a Royal Mail spokesman said that while it deplored the sending of "illegal and scam" material, it was under a legal obligation to deliver all addressed mail.
A spokesman added: "We would urge anyone with concerns to contact the Advertising Standards Authority and the OFT, who have the power to investigate."
(英语点津 Helen 编辑）