Essex Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant against online scams, following a recent case in which a woman lost money after ordering a “free” cosmetic sample on the internet.
The warning comes at the start of Scams Awareness Month, which highlights the many tricks fraudsters have to make money from the unsuspecting public.
In the first week, the spotlight is on online and auction scams, which were the most common fraud reported in 2013, costing UK consumers £63.6 million.
Recently, Essex Trading Standards investigated the case of a woman from Saffron Walden who signed up online to receive a sample of free face cream on a trial basis.
She paid online for the postage and packing and then found that a further two payments of over £200 had been taken from her credit card for regular supply of the cream.
This type of scam can involve anything from beauty products to slimming pills. In some cases people have lost many hundreds of pounds.
Online shopping and auction fraud was the biggest single fraud type with almost 40,000 recorded cases in the UK last year.
Counterfeit cashier cheques, fraudulent lenders offering loans to get hold of personal details, dating scams, ticket cons and computer hacking are also commonly reported scams.
Essex Trading Standards is warning people to watch out for non-secure websites that ask for financial details. But the public should also beware of scammers on the phone and on your doorstep.
Cllr Roger Walters, Essex County Council
Member for Trading Standards, said: “Being able to access goods and services online can be extremely convenient but residents should always check that sites are genuine before making purchasing or disclosing personal information.”
If you have been the target of a scam call the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline for advice and guidance on 08454 040506. The helpline handles calls for Trading Standards.