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MEP is target of Spanish scam

Thursday, 23rd June 2011

East Midlands Conservative MEP Roger Helmer, who has campaigned to raise awareness of European scam letters, has himself been targeted by a letter from a Spanish company asking for his full bank and personal details.

The letter, which was delivered to Mr Helmer’s private address, starts by informing the recipient that they have won a large amount of money. It then goes on to detail that the winnings can be claimed by providing full bank details, next of kin contact information and more intimate details, such as place and date of birth.

Mr Helmer’s main concern is not that he in particular has received such a letter , but about the dangers of such letters being sent to vulnerable constituents in the region, who may unwittingly fill in the form, thus giving the perpetrators full access to their finances and the opportunity to set up accounts and loans in their names. He immediately drew the attention of Trading Standards Officers across the East Midlands region to the scam.

Northamptonshire Trading Standards replied:

‘With this type of letter it can be difficult to prevent being targeted initially since the culprits can obtain information from a number of sources such as telephone directories or from lists purchased legitimately from local authority electoral rolls.

With regards to electoral rolls there is an opt-out box that residents can tick to ensure their details do not appear on any list that is sold commercially.

To ensure they do not receive further communication the recipients should not respond to any such correspondence as responding gets them put on a ‘suckers list’ which will be shared amongst other scammers.’

Leicestershire Trading Standards added:

‘I can assure you that Leicestershire Trading Standards shares your concerns, and as recently as February this year took part in a national 'Scamnesty' campaign to raise awareness. We invited the public to deposit such letters in 'scamnesty' bins in most Leicestershire libraries, and forwarded the contents to the Office of Fair Trading.’

Of course the main purpose of campaigns such as this is to educate the public about this type of criminal activity and persuade them that such letters are best ignored. I regret that investigating and punishing this type of business would require resources which far exceed those of an individual Trading Standards Service, which is why we support the actions of the OFT in engaging with their colleagues abroad.’

Mr Helmer, who lives in the Leicestershire district of Harborough, voiced his concerns this week about such companies targeting residents in the UK and the lack of protection that is provided against such scams:

“It's easy to assume that recipients will see through such scam letters, but sadly there is evidence that people are still taken in, in some cases for many thousands of pounds. Members of the public should never give bank and personal details in response to such unsolicited requests”.