Merton and Richmond Trading Standards are urging everyone to be vigilant after a resident was conned out of £1,200 in a voucher scam over the telephone.
The resident fell victim when they received a voicemail from someone claiming to be from the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The message stated that the resident had an outstanding debt and that an arrest warrant had been issued. On calling the number left on the voicemail, the resident was advised that they could avoid court and settle the debt, by paying it off in PlayStation vouchers by 3pm that day.
The scammers convinced the resident to stay on the phone while they purchased vouchers from different stores. In this case, the resident lost £1200.
Unfortunately, such scams are becoming very common and come in all types of guises. The scammers are confident, convincing and at times ruthless. They rely on causing panic and instilling fear in their victims. In this instance, they made the victim think that they would be arrested, be sent to court or potentially go to prison, which led the resident to act quickly.
Merton Council’s member for community and culture, Councillor Nick Draper, said: “We advise residents not to trust anyone who phones out of the blue and asks for a bill payment of any sort to be settled by purchasing vouchers. Government agencies have strict guidelines and will not call you unexpectedly and ask for personal details, payments over the phone or voucher payments. If you are left a voicemail, ring the number advertised on the agency’s website to find out if the call was genuine.”
If you believe, you have been a victim of a scam or have concerns about a neighbour or a friend, please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 04 05 06 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Merton Council’s Trading Standards team carry out regular talks in the borough to advise and warn residents about common scams. During these roadshows, tips on how to avoid being scammed and ways to protect yourself from fraud are provided. Please keep an eye out for adverts. Alternatively, you can contact the team on 0208 545 3025 to arrange a presentation. The team also visit groups or organisations that want to find out more.