It is thought that only five per cent of those affected by a scam ever report it, hampering efforts to track down the criminals responsible, and get help to victims.
Every year millions of people across the UK, and thousands in Lancashire, fall prey to scammers, with the cost to victims estimated at £5bn nationwide. But the real cost could be far higher.
“Don’t be rushed, don’t be hushed” is the theme for national Scams Awareness Month taking place throughout July.
County Councillor Azhar Ali, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “It is thought that most victims of scams don’t report their experience because they feel a sense of shame, and simply want to forget what has happened and move on.
“Scams can affect anyone, from teenagers to the elderly, and can have a real impact on mental health as well as their finances, leading people to lose confidence and miss out on opportunities in life.
“Scammers operate by rushing people into make hasty decisions. During Scams Awareness Month we’re making a real push to get out the message that people should take their time to make a decision and get their facts together before parting with their money or personal information, and speak out when they think they’ve spotted a scam.”
Throughout Scams Awareness Month, Trading Standards officers will focus on raising awareness of the different types of scams, and how to avoid them, issuing advice on phone scams, online scams, mail scams and doorstep scams.
Officers will also be visiting potential scam victims to return items of mail that have been intercepted on their way back to scammers containing cheques and bank details. As a result of co-ordinated work with the National Trading Standards Scam Team, approximately 100 pieces of mail are awaiting return to people in Lancashire.
The initiative launched in June last year has already seen more than 50 people in the county receive money back along with a home visit and the offer of further advice and help from a Trading Standards officer. Officers have also visited a further 150 people whose details were being circulated among scammers identifying them as potential targets.
Scams Awareness Month is an annual campaign which sees Trading Standards partner with other agencies including Citizens Advice to prevent scams.
If you are unsure about an offer and believe it may be a scam, speak to family or friends, and seek advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506.
If you think you have been misled into paying money as a result of a scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.