Our trading standards service will be returning thousands of pounds to residents from across the region who were defrauded in an international lottery scam.
We have been allocated £25,000 to return to 135 victims.
It’s thanks to The National Trading Standards Team, who worked with the United States Federal Trade Commission, and they identified US-based fraudsters who targeted UK households with scam mail offering alleged cash wins and claiming ‘guaranteed’ cash prizes.
Kansas based criminals, Kevin Brandes, William Graham and Charles Floyd Anderson deliberately targeted older people living alone or those with long-term health conditions, sending deceptive personalised mail to individuals in the so-called ‘Next Gen’ sweepstakes scheme.
They enticed victims into paying an upfront fee ranging from £25 to £40 – and many paid the fee several times before realising there was no prize.
Now following action taken by the US Federal Trade Commission, a Federal Judge ordered that $25 million of forfeited cash and assets be made available to compensate victims around the world.
The amounts we wil return to local people will vary between £25 and £1,225. We are also also advising those affected on how to identify scams and stay safe in future.
Janet Quinn, Scams Lead Officer for Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, said:
“Thanks to the work of National Trading Standards and the Federal Trade Commission, I am delighted to say that we will be returning money to dozens of people who were defrauded.
“Scams and mass marketing mail fraud like this are becoming increasingly common with fraudsters trying to capitalise on the current cost of living crises and they don’t give a second thought to the damage they cause and the victims they scam, many of which are elderly and vulnerable and are least able to afford it.”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s cabinet Member for Trading Standards said:
“This investigation and approach to obtaining the proceeds of crime sends a clear message that fraudsters, wherever they are based, can be caught.
“I would urge residents and local businesses to be vigilant, carefully consider the implications of responding to unsolicited mail, telephone calls, emails or in-person cold callers.”
For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud and scams go to our Heart of the South West Trading Standards website.
And for advice about mail scams go to the Think Jessica website.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to your bank and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
For advice, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.