UK launches official 'ScamBusters' agency
The UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a dynamically-named 'ScamBusters' squad to target the most prevalent and harmful mass-marketing scams aimed at the nation's consumers.
The team was formed as part of the OFT's commitment to targeting scams as a priority area for the next three years. It is estimated that UK consumers lose up to £1 billion per year to a variety of scams which exploit low-cost, mass-marketing techniques to target recipients. These scams include bogus prize draws and lotteries, premium-rate prize promotions, psychic mailings and miracle health cures that deliberately mislead consumers.
The OFT is also launching a new Scams Enforcement Group (SEG) which will bring together law enforcement agencies including trading standards and National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). The group will build on existing enforcement cooperation by exchanging information on new scams and best practices, and by coordinating action accordingly.
Busting duties The new ScamBusters team will:
- Continue to target those scams which cause the greatest consumer harm;
- Empower consumers through public awareness;
- Work with postal operators, accommodation address agencies, and other service providers to disrupt scammers routes to market.
The team will use the experience gained from previous initiatives to work with other government enforcement agencies, both in the UK and overseas; private organisations and sectoral regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS).
Making it safe The OFT targets mass-marketing scams with the intent of reducing the harm suffered by consumers and also increasing consumer confidence in legitimate mass-marketing from fair-trading businesses. The OFT has in the past taken action against a number of scams directed at UK consumers, often with the cooperation of other enforcement agencies both in the UK and abroad.
Christine Wade, director of consumer regulation enforcement, said: "Scams are big business. The OFT's new team will target deceptive schemes that exploit consumer vulnerabilities to con people out of their money."
SEG members Current members of the Scams Enforcement Group are: regional Trading Standards representatives (Bristol, Kingston upon Thames, Suffolk, North Yorkshire, Carmarthenshire, West Sussex and Northern Ireland), the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, the Gaming Board for Great Britain, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (who always get their man), the Department of Trade & Industry Companies Investigation Branch, ICSTIS, NCIS, ASA, and of course the communications watchdog Ofcom.