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27 October 2010, 12:38
The number of people being conned by scams on the South Coast is rising.
Trading Standards in Hampshire say they've had almost 1500 complaints in the past year and reckon tougher laws should be brought in.
One woman in the New Forest spent £130,000 on non-existent shares - another in Winchester lost £100,000 on a Spanish Lottery scam.
Hampshire County Council are now calling for the introduction of new laws to tackle growing numbers of scammers that prey on vulnerable members of the community.
The vulnerable and socially isolated are most likely to become chronic victims, although this is not always a case.
Top of the list are scams that prey on people’s money worries, offering too-good-to-be-true offers or cash handouts, eye-catching investment opportunities and bogus share offers, fake lotteries, jackpot prizes and even psychics who threaten to curse individuals who do not send payments. The money gained through these means is then used by scammers to fund further crimes such as drugs or even terrorism.
As part of steps to combat this ongoing problem County Council Leader, Councillor Ken Thornber has written to Hampshire MPs asking them to consider introducing a Private Members Bill in Parliament which would allow police or other enforcement officers to intercept mail when it enters the country if they have reason to believe it is a scam mail.
The Bill would also allow Royal Mail to disclose the details of potential scam victims to Trading Standards. Royal Mail are aware of these scammers due to the amount of mail received but are unable to pass this information onto Trading Standards officers so that they can support the victim and prosecute the perpetrator.
Councillor Thornber said: “While most people ignore these scam mailings, some do fall for them and truly believe that sending off sums of money could lead to them winning millions. Once a person sends off their money or replies to one such scam, they will often then be deluged with further mailings, sometimes up to 100 items a day.
“Where many scams originate from abroad as is commonly the case, there is currently little Trading Standards can do to stop them. The County Council’s ongoing efforts centre around raising awareness among residents to help prevent them falling victim, however many slip through the net and we only hear when it is too late.
“However, with the backing of Hampshire’s MPs and their collective support for a change in the law, more of these scams could be intercepted in the future before they even reach their potential victims.”
Anyone who feels they or someone they know may have fallen victim to a scam, should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06, www.consumerdirect.gov.uk for advice.