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Bungay minister speaks out against scams

PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 August 2008 | UPDATED: 07:37 01 August 2010

A BUNGAY church minister this week condemned the perpetrators of scams which targeted unwary, vulnerable and gullible people.

The Rev Bruce Waldron highlighted two cases locally, with one person losing £2000 to scams - and criticised the Government for not taking action to address the cynical practice.

A BUNGAY church minister this week condemned the perpetrators of scams which targeted unwary, vulnerable and gullible people.

The Rev Bruce Waldron highlighted two cases locally, with one person losing £2000 to scams - and criticised the Government for not taking action to address the cynical practice.

One local woman who had paid £9 for a phone call after being promised a big prize got nothing for it, and vowed not to be caught again. But Mr Waldron, Minister at Emmanuel Untied Reformed and Methodist Church at Bungay, said: “She is one of thousands, caught daily in scams designed to fleece the unwary, the unclear, the vulnerable, the gullible. It is a multi-million dollar scam, ripping off the people who usually are least able to afford it. This woman won't fall into the trap again, but there are many who do, and again and again and again.”

In that case she had been promised in a letter that she ha won a prize of £37,000 and all she had to do was make a telephone call to claim it. She was given a validation code and filled in the necessary form, but four weeks later there was no prize money, and on checking the small print found calls would cost £1.50 a minute.

Mr Waldron said another local woman, who was elderly, found a letter in her mail announcing that she had won either a small prize of £250, a small car or a cruise to Australia, or, the grand prize of £300,000 pounds - all she had to do was send in a processing fee of £10 and the money or one of the prizes would come to her. She thought she could give the car to her grandson, and sent off the processing fee. She has never received a prize, but she did start to receive a string of letters, prizes she had won that required a phone call, a registration fee, a small processing fee, an entry fee.

“She had spent nearly £2000 before her vigilant son realised what was happening,” Mr Waldron said, and added:

“The practise has not been addressed by any legal body in Britain. In Australia it is covered by a law addressing what is termed “Invitation to Treat”, a law which makes it illegal to entice people into parting with money in the hope that they will gain a reward. Why this government has not made this practice illegal is hard to fathom. Perpetrators of the scam have worked out that for all the people who recognise the system fairly quickly and bin the rubbish, there are many who for a variety of reasons, do not. These make the practice lucrative. People who do respond become targets for a barrage of literature. Once the networks know someone is vulnerable, they hone in like gulls around a picnic. Some people lose thousands before they wake up. Some don't ever realise. They become silent, perpetual victims of an iniquitous system that has been allowed to flourish.”

He said huge numbers of people are still being caught out by this type of scam, which was a lucrative way for the heartless to make money out of the vulnerable.

“One hopes that one day, the parties who make and enforce our country's laws, will do something to stop it. Why this hasn't already happened is a mystery.”

Trading standards press officer for Suffolk Saraid Cann said yesterday that nationally, every year three million people in the UK lose money to mass marketed scams they receive by mail, email, text or over the phone which are designed to con victims out of their cash. The problem costs UK consumers an estimated £3.5billion per year but less than 5 per cent of victims report their experience.

“As well as reporting scams to TS in Suffolk people can also call Consumer Direct for advice on 08454 04 05 06 or visit the Consumer Direct website at www.consumerdirect.gov.uk to report scams online.”

In February as part of scams awareness month, Suffolk Trading Standards asked residents to send their junk scam mail to them and as a result they received 300 scams in a month.

"It's time to bin those scams, lotteries, and get rich quick schemes. If you get any of these through the door, then drop them into your local library, where they will be forwarded onto trading standards. If it's an email promising you millions or asking for your bank or personal details, you can now forward it onto scams@tradstan.suffolkcc.gov.uk direct to trading standards,” she said.

The advice is that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is; if it asks for you bank details or personal information, if it promises £££s but only in exchange for a processing or admin fee first, if it promises money for doing nothing, if it is a selling scheme based on gifting money or recruiting others, then it's more than likely a chain letter or pyramid selling scam.

A Suffolk police spokesman gave the same advice and said people should be extremely careful when dealing with such letters or emails.

“There are a number of scams that try to get you to part with your money before receiving anything. Be as alert as you can and don't respond to anything you are not sure about,” she said.

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