SCAM mail will be tackled in a joint operation between Lancashire Trading Standards Service and Lancashire Constabulary throughout February.
The “Scamnesty” campaign will see special bins placed at various locations, including police stations and libraries, for people to deposit any scams or suspected scams they receive through the post.
New for this year, people can also forward any e-mailed scams through to the team for further investigation at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
County Coun. Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Scammers are always coming up with new ideas to catch people out. The intelligence we get through the Scamnesty campaign helps us to raise awareness of the types of scam out there.
“The sad reality is that while scams are a massive problem, with some people being conned out of very large sums, only one in 20 victims report them. This makes it very difficult to target prevention and take action against those responsible.
“If people know what to watch out for, it helps to reduce the chance of them being scammed in future.”
Last year’s campaign identified 400 separate scams which, had they worked, could have cost Lancashire residents £10.6m. It also revealed fake prize draws remain the biggest problem, showing a seven-fold increase between 2010 and 2011.
Scams are a massive hidden problem, with victims often too embarrassed to report them. Estimates put the cost to Lancashire residents alone at £64m. annually, with 76,000 people becoming victims every year.
DC Tony McClements, Lancashire Constabulary fraud evaluation and liaison officer, added: “We are delighted to support Trading Standards in this campaign, especially due to the fact many of the victims may be vulnerable. Being scammed in this fashion can be devastating to the victim due to the level of trust cultivated by the fraudster who effectively befriends them before striking.
“Predominantly the criminals perpetrating these types of scams are based outside the UK jurisdiction, making investigation extremely difficult, so always remember – if it looks too good to be true it probably is.”
If you are unsure of an offer, speak to family or friends, and seek advice from Action Fraud on 0300 1232040 or visit www.actionfraud.org.uk. You can report e-scams online via the action fraud website.
If you think you may have been misled into paying money as a result of a scam, register your complaint with Trading Standards by calling Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.