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14 June 2010, 10:19
Nationwide letter scams from several Spanish businesses pretending to be based in West Sussex have been closed down by county trading standards officers.
In a joint operation with Surrey and Sussex police, the scam letter businesses were traced, and more than £150,000 of victims’ money saved. The main scam involved timeshare owners across the country receiving a phone call or letter from a business which appeared to be in West Sussex, convincing them it had buyers for their timeshare in return for an immediate fee
But once the fee was paid, the buyer never materialised. Victims who tried to contact the business had little or no response, and found the West Sussex address was just a PO Box. Victims had in some cases lost up to £1500. This type of scam is known as an advance fee fraud.
West Sussex Trading Standards received reports from victims across the country about this scam and other advance fee scams offering other services and using the same PO Box address. This intelligence triggered trading standards into action and investigators traced the route between Spain and the UK used by the scammers, and closed it down.
“Scammers all over the world are becoming more sophisticated and creating new con tricks all the time,” said Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection. “Remember that any offer which seems too good to be true is probably just that. It’s all to easy to let down your guard, then you too could become a victim.”
You can protect yourself by:
· Being sceptical. Does it look too good to be true?
· Asking yourself why somebody you don’t know wants you to send money upfront. Why should you trust them?
· Never giving bank or card details to people you don’t know or trust.
If you suspect a scam, or have been a victim, call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or click here for clear, practical consumer advice.