By Josie Clarke, Press Association Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Fake Euro 2020 tickets, modelling and cryptocurrency scams are among the emerging threats posed by fraudsters, consumers have been warned.
National Trading Standards (NTS) secured a record 230 years in prison sentences and prevented £182 million of losses to consumers in the last year but warned consumers to remain vigilant of “new and emerging threats”.
Illegal skin lightening creams – many of which contain dangerous ingredients such as hydroquinone, corticosteroids and mercury which can seriously damage a person’s health – are also on the increase, according to the NTS’s annual Consumer Harm Report.
It warns of a growth in modelling scams on social media which offer people the opportunity to launch their modelling career but result in the fake agency disappearing with the fee, and intelligence suggesting that major film releases scheduled for next year will trigger larger volumes of counterfeit goods.
Criminals are preparing for Euro 2020 with fake tournament tickets already on sale online and plans for counterfeit merchandise such as replica shirts and tournament memorabilia, the report warns.
NTS said the interest in cryptocurrencies had led to an increase in scammers taking advantage of people prepared to invest in new schemes.
The report said the work of NTS teams at ports, airports and postal hubs resulted in more than 2.2 million unsafe and non-compliant goods prevented from entering the country.
Significant convictions included an investigation into the operation of copycat websites, a mother and son Dyson vacuum cleaner servicing fraud and a computer repair scammer who claimed to represent Microsoft.
NTS chairman Lord Toby Harris said: “Our work securing 100 convictions and 230 years of prison sentences sends a very clear message that these crimes are taken extremely seriously and we will not stop in our efforts to bring criminals to justice.
“The report also shows that the threats facing consumers and business are constantly evolving. From the use of social media to promote fake modelling and cryptocurrency scams to the dangers of illegal skin lightening creams, criminals are always looking for new and creative ways to boost their ill-gotten gains.
“National Trading Standards investigators are continuing to work hard to protect consumers but I encourage everyone to remain vigilant. If you suspect that you, a family member or someone you know may be the victim of a scam or fraud then I would urge you to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”