Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards officers are returning thousands of pounds to residents who have been defrauded by an international lottery scam.
In a landmark investigation, the National Trading Standards Team hosted by Surrey County Council, working with the United States Federal Trade Commission, identified US-based fraudsters who targeted UK households with scam mail offering alleged cash wins and claiming ‘guaranteed’ cash prize pay-outs.
The Kansas based crime gang deliberately targeted older people living alone or those with long-term health conditions, sending deceptive personalised mail to individuals in the so-called ‘Next Gen’ sweepstakes scheme. They enticed victims into paying an upfront fee ranging from £25 to £40 and many paid the fee several times before realising there was no prize.
Following action taken by the US Federal Trade Commission, a Federal Judge ordered that $25 million of forfeited cash and assets be made available to compensate victims around the world.
Trading Standards officers have identified and contacted 32 Surrey residents affected by the scam, all of whom will be returned their defrauded money. The amounts to be returned vary between £25 and £2700, with more than £6.6k being returned to Surrey residents in total. Officers are also advising those affected on how to identify scams and stay safe in future.
Lee Ormandy, Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards Deputy Team Manager said: “Thanks to the intervention of National Trading Standards and the Federal Trade Commission, I am delighted that we can return money thought lost to fraudsters and to send a clear message that crime does not pay.
“Worryingly we are seeing an increase in fraud and scams trying to capitalise on the current cost of living crises so I would urge residents and local businesses to be vigilant, carefully consider the implications of responding to unsolicited mail, telephone calls, emails or in-person cold callers.”
For the full national press release, please see here.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards offer a range of free resources to help prevent fraud. If you would like a free no cold calling or scams sticker pack or enquiring about a free call blocker device, please contact 0300 123 2329.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to your bank and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. For advice, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
To stay up to date on the latest scam information you can follow Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to our fortnightly TS Alert newsletter.
People can also protect themselves by attending one of our monthly Friends Against Scams webinars.