Office of Fair Trading research shows that email is now the most common scam approach
The Government is taking the fight to fraudsters, criminals and rogue traders who use the internet and email to con consumers.
Each year scams cost three million UK consumers £3.5 billion and recent research from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) shows that email is now the most common scam approach. At least 73% of adults have received a scam email in the past year.
Announcing the formation of a new specialist cyber enforcement team and extra funding for Trading Standards, Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said: “The internet is rapidly transforming the way we shop. It presents massive opportunities for consumers, but unfortunately it also harbours fraudsters who can leave consumers upset and out of pocket. So as they get more sophisticated, we need to stay one step ahead. Our investment will help the OFT and Trading Standards to put in place the new specialist teams, training and technology required to take the fight to these criminals.”
The Government is investing £4.3 million over three years. OFT’s team has already set up a fully equipped laboratory with specialist equipment and is being trained by an international expert. This new functionality adds to the OFT’s capability across all of its enforcement work from cartels to consumer protection cases; and new highly trained trading standards enforcers with specialist equipment will also be placed in every region of England and in Scotland and Wales.
The teams will focus on: fake products and traders who try to hide their identity to avoid giving consumer redress; ticket scams where tickets sold for concerts, festivals, football games and other events are either counterfeit or non-existent; and scam websites purporting to sell goods that dupe consumers into making what appear to be bargain purchases, but consumers receive either nothing at all or counterfeit products.
Heather Clayton, OFT Senior Director, said: “Online consumer protection is a key priority for the OFT. The enforcement team will be looking at the activities of a wide range of commercial websites and taking action in cases where consumers’ rights are being abused.
“Ultimately, giving the public even greater confidence to shop online is what drives the activities of our enforcement team.”
TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “We want to see shoppers to be able to be as confident online, shopping cross border in the EU, as they are in bricks and mortar shops – there is a real benefit for businesses and consumers alike to be unlocked.
“These specialist teams will help us be a modern regulatory service that can handle the increasingly complex threats and demands of the online market, which is fundamental to consumer and business protection, and renewed prosperity.”
The OFT will co-ordinate which enforcer is best placed to take action on a particular issue and will focus on the most serious cyber scams. Cases will continue to be passed to the Police, Serious and Organised Crime Agency and Companies Investigations Branch when appropriate.
Consumers who suspect they are the victim of an online scam should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk
Consumer Direct can provide advice and pass on complaints and information to Trading Standards and the OFT.