Thu, 08 Dec 2022

A number of scam victims in Northern Ireland are set to receive compensation as part of an investigation into an international mass mail marketing scam.

National Trading Standards

A four-year investigation saw National Trading Standards (NTS) assist the US Federal Trade Commission with their investigations. As a result of this collaborative working, it is estimated over Pound 10,000 will be returned to over 65 victims here in Northern Ireland.

In a landmark investigation, the NTS Scams Team worked closely with the Federal Trade Commission to identify US-based fraudsters who targeted UK households with scam mail offering alleged cash wins and claiming 'guaranteed' cash prize pay-outs. The personalised mailings to UK addresses - estimated to be more than seven million in the four years from 2014 - deliberately targeted vulnerable people, such as older people living alone or those with long-term health conditions. The mailings enticed victims by asking for an upfront fee ranging from Pound 25 to Pound 40. Many paid the fee several times before realising there was no prize.

Working with US colleagues at the Federal Trade Commission, action was taken against the perpetrators in 2018 and $25 million was made available to compensate victims around the world. National Trading Standards, which was commended by the US Attorney General for its role in the investigation, has since worked to secure the first compensation scheme across international borders in the UK.

Enforcement Officer with the Trading Standards Service NI, Yasmin Johnstone, said:
"This is a very welcoming result to be able to return money to vulnerable people within Northern Ireland, particularly during an extremely challenging period as the cost of living crisis deepens. It is more important than it has ever been that we take the time to educate ourselves regarding scams in the hope we can recognise and prevent further loss of money in the future. We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to both the FTC and NTS Scams Team for all their hard work in helping to recover money for victims here in Northern Ireland.

"Victims will be issued with a preloaded card which they can spend in shops or pay into their bank accounts. The cards have been distributed to the Trading Standards Service NI and the roll-out of returning money in Northern Ireland will begin on Monday 10  October 2022. We have been advised that scammers are already jumping on the bandwagon by impersonating Trading Standards Officers in an attempt to further scam victims. Trading Standards Service may call at your property unexpectedly to return funds however we will never: call without appropriate ID; put pressure on you; mind if you say no; object to visiting another time; or ask you for money."

If you think you have been targeted by a scam you should report it to your bank immediately and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. For advice you can call Consumerline on 0300 123 6262. Text scams can be reported to your mobile phone provider by forwarding it to 7726 ('SPAM' on an alphanumeric phone keypad).

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