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Issue:- 17/18  February 2009

Government crackdown on cyber scams

EACH year scams cost 3 million UK consumers £3.5 billion and recent research from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) shows that email is now the most common scam approach – 73% of adults have received a scam email in the past year.

Announcing the formation of a new specialist cyber enforcement team and extra funding for Trading Standards, Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said:- “The internet is rapidly transforming the way we shop. It presents massive opportunities for consumers, but unfortunately it also harbours fraudsters who can leave consumers upset and out of pocket.  So as they get more sophisticated, we need to stay one step ahead. Our investment will help the OFT and Trading Standards to put in place the new specialist teams, training and technology required to take the fight to these criminals.”

The Government is investing £4.3 million over 3 years:-

► OFT’s team has already set up a fully equipped laboratory with specialist equipment and is being trained by an international expert. This new functionality adds to the OFT’s capability across all of its enforcement work from cartels to consumer protection cases;

► new highly trained trading standards enforcers with specialist equipment will also be placed in every region of England and in Scotland and Wales.

Online scams the teams will focus on include:-

► fake products and traders who try to hide their identity to avoid giving consumer redress;

► ticket scams where tickets sold for concerts, festivals, football games and other events are either counterfeit or non-existent; and

► scam websites purporting to sell goods that dupe consumers into making what appear to be bargain purchases, but consumers receive either nothing at all or counterfeit products.

Heather Clayton, OFT Senior Director, said:- “Online consumer protection is a key priority for the OFT. The enforcement team will be looking at the activities of a wide range of commercial websites and taking action in cases where consumers’ rights are being abused.  Ultimately, giving the public even greater confidence to shop online is what drives the activities of our enforcement team."

TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said:- “I am delighted to see this investment in trading standards. The profession has invaluable skills and experience fighting scams in the non-virtual world that will now be put to excellent use in the cyber teams.  We want to see shoppers to be able to be as confident online, shopping cross border in the EU, as they are in bricks and mortar shops – there is a real benefit for businesses and consumers alike to be unlocked.  These specialist teams will help us be a modern regulatory service that can handle the increasingly complex threats and demands of the online market, which is fundamental to consumer and business protection, and renewed prosperity.”

The OFT will co-ordinate which enforcer is best placed to take action on a particular issue and will focus on the most serious cyber scams. Cases will continue to be passed to the Police, Serious and Organised Crime Agency and Companies Investigations Branch when appropriate.

Consumers who suspect they are the victim of an online scam should contact Consumer Direct on:- 08454 040506 or visit

Consumer Direct can provide advice and pass on complaints and information to Trading Standards and the OFT.

Computer says ‘yes’

EVERYDAY IT skills can help you earn more money, keep an existing job or get a new one according to new research among bosses and staff in the North West. Yet many people still need to bring their computer knowledge up to scratch.

In a learndirect survey, 68% of companies across the region say they would consider increasing a salary offer to attract someone who has the ability to use applications such as email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and the internet.  When recruiting, 91% of businesses in the North West ask about applicants’ ability to use a computer, and 69% say these skills are a must for all employees.

Staff in the region see computer literacy as vital to their job – only a good grasp of English and communication skills are considered more important. Despite this, 58% of workers aren’t fully confident in their ability to use IT, with 27% admitting they’ve had to re-do work, cover up mistakes or deal with an angry boss because they lacked the right skills.

More widely in North West, people struggle with a number of common IT terms:-

► 53% don’t understand the meaning of the term ‘mail merge’

► 20% can’t explain what a ‘webpage’ is

► 15% don’t know what is meant by ‘inbox’

Commenting on the findings, Graham Whitehead, Regional Performance Director for learndirect in North West said:- “The research shows how important IT has become in workplaces across the region. A large majority of jobs now need staff who know how to use computers, so it’s crucial people aren’t left behind as IT becomes central to working life.  learndirect offers flexible qualifications to help people improve their everyday IT skills whether they’re looking for a new job, want to get on in their current one or simply want to know how to do more with a home computer. Our qualifications fit around learners’ lives, and our friendly advisers are on hand to offer support.”

Outside the workplace, 36% of people in the North West say being computer literate saves them money on bills and shopping and nearly a third (31%) say it helps them assist children with homework.

To find out how learndirect’s IT qualifications could help you visit:-, call 0800 111 4213 or pop in to your local learndirect centre.

 Department of Health's 'Social Care Campaign' heading to Liverpool

THE Social Care Recruitment Campaign will be coming to Liverpool next week, from Thursday, 25 February 2010, until Saturday, 27 February 2010. The campaign was launched at the beginning of February and is running over the next couple of months. It is aimed at raising awareness about the kind of jobs on offer in the sector and providing more information about where to start when looking for work in social care. 

So far the campaign has had some great case studies from the Liverpool and Chester area, such as Gemma 27, a personal assistant and support worker who previously worked as a hotel caterer. She loves working in care and says:- "My job is so rewarding and I have the opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of the people I work with. There is lots of on the job training and opportunities to advance and since I’ve started I’ve worked with some brilliant and inspiring people. Once you start working in social care, you’ll never look back.” 

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