Old scams, new tricks as fraudsters adapt

Image caption Fraudsters are using junk mail in new and more sophisticated ways

The organisation at the frontline of UK consumer protection says it is seeing a pattern of “old scams, new tricks”.

National Trading Standards (NTS) said that while online crime was a growing problem, time-honoured fraud methods would not disappear any time soon.

It said many people were still hounded by cold callers, scam mail and doorstep criminals.

Criminals were also using smart TVs and voice-activated home devices to steal data, its Consumer Harm Report warned.

‘Challenging times’

NTS, which was set up by the government in 2012, said 2016-17 had been a record-breaking year, with 104 criminal convictions.

However, it said criminals were using new tactics to avoid detection, such as mail arriving via third-party countries and the use of blank envelopes, so that people had to open them to find out what they contained.

In its annual report, it listed the potential emerging threats to consumers over the coming year, including:

  • Continued manipulation of online ticket retail sites by scammers and organised criminals
  • The growth of social media as a selling platform, putting consumers at risk of intellectual property crime and product safety issues
  • The risk posed by connected devices such as smart TVs and home assistants, which may leave consumers open to data theft
  • Increasing sophistication of doorstep criminals who use websites, social media and fake reviews and are increasingly part of larger organised crime groups.

“An evolving criminal landscape does not mean the more traditional scams will disappear,” it said.

“Instead, National Trading Standards is seeing a trend of criminals diversifying and adapting their current schemes, evidenced in mass marketing mail scams.

“Additionally, more scams are originating abroad, with criminals concealing the payments they’re receiving from their victims through payment processing companies,” it said.

But it said its actions had prevented nearly £127m in losses to consumers and businesses during the year.

Lord Toby Harris, who chairs the NTS, said: “Our teams are operating in an ever-evolving criminal environment. Consumer protection bodies are facing changing and challenging times.”

He also praised the efforts of the public, who were “pivotal” in reporting crimes and supporting the NTS’s work.

“So together, we continue to work to disrupt, investigate, prosecute and keep people safe.”

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