Consumers warned of ‘call-blocking’ scams

SCAMS using social media, subscriptions and the telephone preference service are among the emerging threats to consumers over the next year, according to frontline trading standards teams.

The rise of social media advertising and email offers has been blamed for the rise of subscription traps. Picture: Getty Images

National Trading Standards (NTS) said it was aware of a growing number of scammers making cold calls claiming to be from the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and attempting to extract money for registration or for useless call blocking devices.

Louise Baxter, from the NTS scams team, said: “This is a sad and cynical scam that targets people who are actively trying to protect themselves or vulnerable relatives.

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“Please remember that the TPS never cold calls and its service is always free.”

The use of subscription traps is also on the rise, mainly because of the increase in social media advertising and email offers, according to the NTS annual report.

The scam entices consumers to sign up to a free trial or offer but then traps them into costly monthly payments which can be difficult to stop.

The NTS also warned that energy scams such as those fraudulently selling solar panels were likely to increase as government funding for the Green Deal comes to an end, as are investment scams following changes to pensions that came into effect earlier this year.

Other areas of concern for the NTS are an increase in fraudulent deals or faulty and fake products sold via social media sites, loan sharks targeting those vulnerable to financial problems as they get to grips with Universal Credit and the cap on payday loans, and unauthorised sellers of fake or duplicate tickets.

The report says NTS teams prevented £252 million worth of loss to consumers and businesses in the last year, prevented more than 2.5 million unsafe or non-compliant goods from entering the supply chain through borders and convicted 100 criminals who are now serving a total of 118 years of prison time.

However victims of mail scams lost more than £13 million and 200,000 people now appear on so-called “suckers lists”.

NTS chairman Lord Toby Harris said: “We face a growing threat from criminals that set out to target consumers - including some of the most vulnerable people in society - and honest businesses.

“And it’s not just money they take from innocent people. Many victims feel they have lost their dignity, their self-confidence, their sense of security. For small businesses, entire livelihoods may be lost and this, in turn, damages the economy.

“I am hopeful that in publishing this report more people will be inspired to take steps to protect themselves, and vulnerable loved ones. I’d also remind people to report anything suspicious to the Citizen’s Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”