Council warns against summer scams

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South Ayrshire Council have issued a warning to local residents not to be taken in by the promise of financial windfalls or a free luxury holiday as officers continue to tackle scamming complaints.

Fake lotteries, bogus sweepstakes, free scratch cards and prize draws are just a few examples of the trickery that a typical scammer will use to try and con the unwary into paying them money.

A growing source of complaints is companies based abroad targeting internet users via ‘pop-ups’ when browsing on-line. These ads often resemble magazine style or news site reviews of beauty or slimming products and can pop up on quite legitimate sites which convinces some people they are trustworthy.

The claims are bogus and the ‘free’ sample you sign up for also involves regular supplies at substantial cost each month, directly charged against your credit card. Other pop up scams promising cheap designer goods or phenomenal weight loss products involve consumers providing bank details, only to be left with a hefty charge and no goods or a cheap counterfeit alternative.

Councillor John McDowall, Sustainability and Environment Portfolio Holder for the Council, said: “I can’t stress strongly enough the importance to consumers to be on the alert to protect themselves from scams. Do not let the scammers con you. Remain sceptical and take time to look into who you are dealing with. An online search will often quickly give you an indication about the legitimacy of any company or you can seek advice from council officers whether an offer is genuine.

“Ask yourself, how can you win a prize when you haven’t entered a draw or bought a ticket? You should never have to pay money upfront to claim a prize or receive winnings. Trustworthy companies would never contact you asking for your bank or financial details and it is imperative that people in this day and age protect their financial information from any type of fraud.

“Elderly and vulnerable people in South Ayrshire can often be the target of scams and once someone responds to a scam their details are quite often sold on to other scammers as a ‘soft target.’ Carers and relatives should be aware of the signs of elderly or vulnerable people being victims of scams.”

Strathclyde Police Community Inspector Sean Mangan said: “It’s vital that anyone who is contacted in an unsolicited manner by people offering financial rewards/incentives in return for their bank details, or other such monetary incentives, refrains from giving any information to them and instead contacts police or the Council for advice. The manner in which the person is contacted should be a clue as to the type of ‘scam’ that is being operated. If it seems too good to be true then it probably is and should be avoided,”

Anyone who suspects they are the victim of a scam, or that someone is being targeted by scam companies, should contact the Council’s Trading Standards team in total confidence on Ayr 01292 616060.

Alternatively you could refer the matter to Action Fraud the UK’s national fraud reporting centre that provides a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated crime.