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Tipping scams hits British victims hard
By Graham Clifford
Published on 25 February 2008

Almost half of all British residents have been targeted by tipping scam artists and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says that between £1million and £4million is being lost to current bogus tipster mailings each year.

Each scam - which last for around five or six weeks - nets the con-artist behind it around £100,000, and an increasing number of affluent horse racing lovers are being caught out.

Victims, after handing over their cash, find the tips are poor or non-existent and when they try to act on the money-back guarantee find that the pundit's name is made up and their address just a mailbox
 
Retired security officer Graham Allison from Essex paid £3,000 for a series of tips last year and he was told would make him a millionaire.

"I like a gamble," said the 66-year-old. "But at least I used to lose my own money, rather than somebody losing it for me."

He received a professionally constructed letter explaining that he would be given a series of 100% guaranteed racing tips over the year that would make him a fortune.
But over the next two months, only the first of around nine tips - itself an 8-13 favourite - came in as a winner.

When he tried to enforce his money-back guarantee, he could not reach the "tipster" by telephone and his letters went unanswered.

"I was naive," he says.
"Anyone who receives a letter such as this should never listen to these promises. They are just out to get your money."

Mr. Allison says he receives up to a dozen similar letters a week.
 
They might include requests to place bets on somebody else's behalf or offers to become part of a horse owning syndicate, which proves to be completely false.
 
In one case, a con-artist claimed to have 30 years of experience in the sport, despite being aged just 29.

Des Fitzpatrick, a case manager on the OFT's Scambusters team, says victims are being stung for large amounts of money straight away.

This differs from many of the other scams in the UK such as bogus lotteries which draw in victims over time, from a small initial outlay.
 
Last month, the OFT won a High Court injunction against Brighton-based Wesley Beagley, who they estimated raked in at least £175,000 from tipster services.
The OFT said his mailshots, which suggested winnings of £10,000 a week and used false names, could now no longer be distributed.

But elsewhere the Scambusters team's focus is often on public awareness campaigns.

Research published in December 2006 - the first of its kind - estimated that UK consumers lost about £3.5bn a year to scams.

Some 3.2 million people (6.5% of the UK adult population) fell victim to scams every year, according to the research.
 
Each had a 30% chance of becoming a repeat victim within a year, as they would often find themselves placed on so-called suckers lists sold between con-artists.

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