A rogue trader has been sentenced to six months imprisonment at Sheffield Magist ...
Sheffield victims of international mass marketing scams to be compensated
22 people from Sheffield who fell victim to mass marketing scams have been identified to receive a refund, following an international investigation.
The compensation rollout, being delivered by Sheffield Trading Standards, follows a landmark investigation which saw National Trading Standards assist the US Federal Trade Commission in identifying UK residents as being victims of mass marketing scam mailings.
During the investigation, US based fraudsters who targeted UK households with scam mail offering alleged cash wins and claiming ‘guaranteed’ cash prize pay-outs were identified. The criminal enterprise, found to be based in Kansas, USA, sent tens of millions of deceptive personalised mailings to individuals – deliberately targeting vulnerable people, such as older people living alone or those with poor health - around the world in the so called ‘Next Gen’ sweepstakes scheme.
The fraudulent activity occurred in 2017 but it has taken a lengthy investigation in the US before individual victims could be identified. Those affected in Sheffield are entitled to a shared total refund of £2,377.65.
So far 4 of the 22 Sheffield based victims have been contactable. Most victims were elderly and 8 of those have now sadly passed away, highlighting the criminals’ tactics of preying on vulnerable people.
Action was taken in 2018 against the three individuals responsible when they forfeited $30 million in cash and assets; $25 million of this was made available to compensate victims around the world.
The mailings enticed victims by asking them for an upfront fee ranging from £25 to £40. Many paid the fee several times before realising there was no prize, with the highest individual losses in the UK running into thousands of pounds. More than £530,000 will be returned to more than three and a half thousand victims across the UK marking a new approach to obtaining proceeds of crime from international fraudsters.
Sheffield Trading Standards has been working in partnership with the national team to return this money to victims in Sheffield. Locally based officers have been trying to contact all 22 people affected to arrange a personal visit.
During these visits, officers will issue the refund on a pre-loaded credit card which can be spent in shops or paid into bank accounts and will also give the victims advice and tips on how to avoid falling foul of these criminals in the future.
Kaye Fox, Interim Principal Officer Sheffield Trading Standards, said: “Being scammed can have a huge emotional impact on victims and mail fraud represents a persistent threat particularly to vulnerable and elderly people. This outcome shows the importance of collaborative working between agencies in the UK and US which has resulted in us being able to refund victims in our city and help to educate them about how to protect themselves from future scams.”
Councillor Joe Otten, Chair of the Waste and Streetscene Policy committee at Sheffield City Council, said: “Our Trading Standards teams work really hard to prevent scams and fraudsters preying on vulnerable people in the city, but when those criminals are overseas it’s even more challenging.
“This is a brilliant example of partnership working across national and international agencies, leading to a great result, but we wouldn’t be able to support investigations like this without information from victims.
“We know that people who’ve been scammed often find it difficult to talk about – but there is no shame in being scammed. The more intelligence we can gather, the more people we can help and the more we can put a stop to it, so please report it if it happens to you.
“Targeting elderly and vulnerable people is unacceptable and we're saddened that some of the people affected in this case are unable to see this outcome and get their money back.
“There’s lots of advice and support available to help people make the right choices before going ahead with something – stop and think before entering into transactions or giving your details to anyone, check them out, do your research, speak to a friend or relative or contact our Trading Standards for support.”
Sheffield Trading Standards Not Born Yesterday campaign aims to protect residents from financial abuse from mass mail scams, rogue trading, doorstep crime and telephone scams.
Related documents with advice and tips can be downloaded on the council website, Trading Standards page.
If you have any suspicions report it on 0808 223 2233 or at email@example.com.
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