28/02/2006

OFT launches internet scam sweep

The Office of Fair Trading has launched an internet scam sweep and web chat in a bid to trap online scammers.

Over the next three days, thousands of websites will be examined by consumer protection agencies from 21 countries, as well as over 20 Trading Standards departments within the UK.

Home-working scams will be the main target of the sweep, which is the final phase of the OFT's Scams Awareness month, which aims to provide consumers with the skills and knowledge to protect themselves from mass-marketed scams.

There are three main types of scam home-working scheme, the OFT warns. These are: directory schemes, recruitment schemes and kit schemes.

Directory schemes request an upfront fee in exchange for a list of companies offering work to home-workers. However, the recipient normally receives a photocopied sheet containing a list of other home-working scheme adverts, charging between £10 and £200 to register with no genuine work offers at the end.

Recruitment schemes are essentially pyramid schemes, which requests a fee from customers and then instructs them to place similar ads in shop windows in order to receive fees from other customers.

Kit schemes offer work making arts and crafts products from kits provided by the advertiser, who claim they will purchase the products back from the home-worker when they are completed. The kits can cost from between £10 and £200, but the products will always be rejected by the company on the grounds that it has 'failed the quality standards, regardless of the actual quality of the products, and the victim will lose their money.

It is estimated that around five million people in the UK fall victim to scams each year.

Mike Haley, Head of the Scambusters' team, said: "Bogus schemes are an increasing problem for those looking for genuine work to do at home. Like all scams, the telltale sign to beware of is the fact that the company will ask for money up-front. You should never have to pay a fee to get paid work."

(KMcA/GB)


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