Lancashire residents have saved themselves over £400,000 by handing in mail attempting to rip them off during this year's Scamnesty campaign.
Almost 500 new scams were handed in by the public during February's Scamnesty which saw Lancashire County Council's Trading Standards service and Lancashire Police encourage residents to deposit any scams they received at collection points throughout the county.
The intelligence received through Scamnesty, now in its fourth year, has been invaluable in helping to warn people how to avoid specific scams.
Reports of fraud are also up by eight per cent for the year to 673 complaints which represents progress against studies which show just five per cent of victims report their experience.
Lee Ormandy, from Lancashire County Council Trading Standards, said: "If people had actually fallen for the hundreds of scams which were handed in during Scamnesty we estimate it would have cost them over £400,000.
"National research shows that very few people are willing to report they've been ripped off, whether through lack of knowledge, fear, embarrassment, or because they would sooner forget their bad experience.
"This leads us to believe that the 600 to 700 fraud complaints we receive each year represent a small fraction of the total problem, with studies estimating that in fact around 76,000 people in Lancashire lose money to a scam every year.
"While on the face of it a rise in fraud may appear to be a bad thing, we believe the small number of extra cases reported this year is evidence that the Scamnesty campaign may be helping to turn the corner, ensuring people are better informed and encouraging more people to report problems."
Detective Constable Mark Aldridge, Lancashire Constabulary’s fraud evaluation & liaison officer, said: "We are delighted to have supported Trading Standards in this important campaign, which has effectively prevented fraudsters from scamming hundreds of thousands of pounds from Lancashire residents.
"Being scammed in this way can not only be hugely inconvenient and embarrassing for the victim but it can cause a great deal of distress and financial upset.
"Predominantly the criminals behind these types of scams are based outside the UK making investigation extremely difficult, so always remember if it looks too good to be true it probably is.
"We work closely with the county council and other agencies tackle fraud and I urge all members of the public to continue to be wary of any company asking them to transfer money to bank accounts that are held in individuals’ names. Anyone who is unsure about a company that is looking to do business with them could consider checking them out via Consumer Direct."
In 2013, the Scamnesty campaign identified the following four rip-offs to be the most prolific in the county:
• Prize Draws (56%) – a scam claiming you have won a guaranteed prize. However you must pay a fee, order a product, or call a premium rate phone number before the prize can be claimed. On the rare occasion a prize actually exists it is usually of far less value than the money paid to received it.
• Psychics (23%) – a scam making predictions and promises of good fortune, but only on the condition you send money or pay a fee – the supposed psychic can be aggressive, threatening terrible misfortune for not complying.
• Lotteries (13%) – a scam claiming you have won a large sum, but requiring money and/or personal information to be sent before bogus winnings can be claimed.
• Data 'phishing' (6%) – a scam designed to trick you into revealing personal information by asking you to update, validate or confirm your details.
Consumer Direct can be contacted on 08454 040506. If you think you may have been a victim of fraud then visit www.actionfraud.org.uk or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. You can sign up to receive updates on scams in Lancashire at www.facebook.com/stanleydards or search for Scambuster Stan on Facebook.