Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Don’t Be Fooled by Scams

February is the Office of Fair Tradings annual Scams Awareness Month, and Trading Standards are warning the public not to be taken in by fraudsters who con, on average, 3 million UK consumers out of a total of £3.5 billion to scams every year, according to the Office of Fair Trading.

Scams come in a variety of guises, but some to be wary of are:

  • On-line and email scams
  • Prize draw letters
  • Scams directed at businesses
  • Bogus holiday clubs
  • Beneficiary scams
  • Clairvoyant scams
  • Miracle Health and Slimming

Details of these scams can be found below:

On-line and Email Scams

One of the most common of these is “phishing” - the email appears to come from your bank, a company you regularly do business with, a Government Department or from your social networking site and directs you to a mocked up website that asks you to provide personal data such as account details, passwords and credit card numbers. The site is fake and your details can be used to commit identity fraud.

Prize Draw Letters

These claim that the recipient has won a large sum of money, often using the name of a foreign lottery. The letters frequently request that you send your personal information, and usually a fee in order to claim your prize – although some are more subtle and only ask for this at a later stage.

Scams Directed at Businesses

Businesses should be wary of offers for seemingly free advertising in directories. The true cost, which can be considerable, can be hidden away in the small print, and in some of these scams signatures are copied to fresh contract agreements.

Another common scam is where a business receives a phone call claiming that it had previously offered to sponsor a worthy cause, such as “drug awareness” books for schools, and a payment is now due.

Bogus Holiday Clubs

An estimated 400,000 UK consumers fall victim to bogus holiday clubs each year. Typically, consumers are approached by scratchcard touts while on holiday. The card will always be a major winner and to collect their prize they are persuaded to attend a presentation on a 'great new holiday concept', which in fact is designed to tie you in to an expensive agreement which as you are not contracting for property gets around the protection contained in Timeshare legislation.

Beneficiary Scams

These letters or emails often claim to come from an employee of an overseas bank which has a large sum of money to ‘offload’. The scenario is usually that a depositor has died leaving no will, thus presenting an opportunity for the employee to gain access to the fund with your assistance. Sometimes the letter claims that you have a family link with the ‘deceased’.

As with ‘phishing’ and prize draw scams, these are designed to get you to reveal your personal and bank details.

Clairvoyant Scams

Unsolicited emails and letters from bogus clairvoyants and psychics prey directly on the vulnerable and can be particularly unpleasant. There are a number of instances where they have been received by people at the time of some misfortune, such as bereavement, and have caused considerable distress.

In some cases, these mailings adopt a more aggressive tone, suggesting that the recipient will actually experience some misfortune if they do not respond by sending the money requested.

Miracle Health Cure and Slimming Products Scams

Some mailings offer miracle cures for various illnesses, and slimming products which guarantee amazing results. These are unlikely to have been properly tested or proven to be medically effective, and yet can come at a hefty price.

Ray Norris, Fair Trading Officer said ”These are just some of the types of scams designed to con you into parting with your money. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!”

If you have been targeted by any of these or other scams, or if you would like any further information or advice, please contact:

Trading Standards Service

Development and Environment Services

Environmental Standards

Orkney Islands Council

School Place


KW15 1NY

Tel: 01856 873535