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Last Updated: Monday, 17 March 2008, 13:13 GMT
Trauma victims at risk from scams
The Real Hustle
Actors in the BBC's The Real Hustle backed an OFT anti-scam campaign
Victims of some of the most high-value scams have previously suffered from trauma, according to a new report.

Dutch IT fraud agency Ultrascan reviewed 362 cases when victims lost more than 150,000 and found that 308 had suffered family trauma.

The agency estimated some 300,000 advanced fee fraudsters were in operation across the world in 2007.

Latest research from the Office of Fair Trading suggested victims were most likely to be aged between 35 and 44.

Huge losses

The Ultrascan report claimed that 2.1bn was lost internationally to advanced fee fraud, the most successful of scams for con-artists.

Victims are typically asked by e-mail to help in transferring millions of pounds overseas, for which they would receive a cut.

The fraudster will then ask for bogus processing fees upfront or extract victims' personal details and clear their bank accounts.

A spokesman for Ultrascan said that people, often white-collar workers, suffering as a result of bereavement or trauma appeared to be losing out in these scams.

"We are looking at the profile of victims to help warn others," he said.

Vulnerability myth

Research published last year by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) suggested it was wrong to assume that only the vulnerable were victims of scams.

"Our research dispels the myth that only the vulnerable, elderly or naive are taken in by scams," said the OFT report into mass-marketed scams, the first study of its kind.

Older people were more likely to lose more money on average, the research found, but victims were most commonly aged 35 to 44.

Those in less affluent groups were particularly at risk of foreign lottery, career opportunity and clairvoyant scams.

Those earning more were affected by advance fee, property investor and high-risk investment scams.

Nearly two-thirds of victims of all scams were in employment, the OFT study found.

Last week, a father and daughter were charged with multiple counts of fraud and money laundering in a $70m (34m) alleged share scam.

Paul Gunter, 58, and daughter Zibiah, 25, from Florida, were accused by investigators of showing a "callous disregard" for the 15,000 British citizens to whom they were alleged to have sold worthless shares.

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