Scamwatch: Cruel con artists preying on bereaved Brits

Fake clairvoyants are targeting families who have lost loved ones after spotting death notices in local papers

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

See also: The top ten dodgy estate agent tricks

See also: Branson targeted in £4m con by fraudster posing as Government defence chief

This week, we explain how unscrupulous fraudsters are scouring local newspapers to find families they can trick into paying for their "clairvoyant" services.

How does it work?

Hundreds of recently bereaved families have received calls from "clairvoyants" asking for payment to deliver a message from their lost loved one.

The fraudsters, who are thought to be based in Turkey, comb local newspapers' online death notices and obituaries sections in search of vulnerable people to target.

Those duped into handing over money for what they believe will be genuine communications from their deceased loved ones are often then threatened with "curses" if they do not keep paying for the services, despite getting no benefit from them.

How can I avoid being caught out?

This scam is only thought to have been running for about six months, but hundreds of families have already been targeted in that time.

The easiest way to avoid becoming a victim is to not put an obituary in the local newspaper when someone in your family dies.

If you do decide to run a death notice despite the risks, you should tell anyone calling offering "clairvoyant" services that you are not interested and you do not want to be contacted again.

It is particularly important to make vulnerable, elderly relatives aware of this, perhaps by leaving a note by the phone warning them about such callers.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

As the callers working this scam are based outside the EU, the government is powerless to stop them.

However, you can still report scams of this kind to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, which will pass the report to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to find out if there are any viable lines of enquiry.

Victims of scams and fraud

Victims of scams and fraud