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Scam victims to receive one-to-one help to avoid becoming 'easy targets'

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Older people at risk of repeat scams are to receive one-to-one support to safeguard their finances under a new scheme launched yesterday (Thursday 17 Sep).

Derbyshire Scam Watch is a joint initiative between the Citizens Advice, Derbyshire County Council Trading Standards and Age UK Derby and Derbyshire which aims to raise awareness among elderly people of the potential risks of mass-marketing, internet, doorstep and telephone scams.

It comes as Trading Standards revealed the names of more than 300 scam victims in Derbyshire had been found on an “easy target” list shared among criminal gangs operating mail fraud in the UK in the past 12 months. 

The list, which was handed to local officers by the national Trading Standards Scams Team, contained the names of more than 100,000 people nationwide and has resulted in repeated contact to victims from criminal communities across the world.

So far, more than 70 Derbyshire residents have been contacted from the list. As a result of further investigation, officers found that:

  • The average age of scam victims is 77
  • More than 90% of victims live alone or are recently widowed
  • On average victims lose around £3,500
  • Many victims report loneliness as the main driver for answering or responding to mail or phone scams

The new multiagency Scams Watch project will deliver a programme of visits, undertaken by volunteers, to known victims of scams in the county to provide one-to-one advice and support that will help them to avoid being targeted in the future.

Victims will be identified from information passed to the project by the National Scams Team as well as referrals from partner agencies including Age UK Derby and Derbyshire, Derbyshire CAB, Derbyshire County Council Adult Care, Community Safety, Public Health and Derbyshire Police. The service will also be available to concerned family, friends and neighbours of older residents. 

Commissioner Charles has committed £25,000 to the project from his Crime Prevention Grant scheme in support of his Police and Crime Plan commitments to protect vulnerable people in the county from harm.

Speaking after the launch, Commissioner Charles said: “The figures highlighted by Trading Standards portray the seriousness of online fraud and other types of scams. Unfortunately, we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg as 95% of scams go unreported. 

“The losses suffered by these victims represents a huge amount of money by anyone’s standards, not least a pensioner who is reliant on a fixed income. This project will deliver a very valuable service, empowering known victims of scams to make well-informed security conscious decisions in the future to protect their finances and personal information.

“Fraudsters often prey on vulnerable older people because of a perception they are more trusting or grateful for someone to talk to. The presence of ‘easy target’ lists within the criminal fraternity is worrying evidence of this so it is important we act now to warn residents of some of the red flags before it’s too late.”

A spokesperson for North East Derbyshire Citizens Advice said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the Commissioner’s Crime Prevention Grant, on a subject where the isolated and elderly are targeted it is great to be working in partnership with Age UK, Trading Standards and the Police.  Scams can a have devastating impact on older people’s health, it is becoming apparent that the number of older people falling victim to scams is increasing.”

As well as online, mail, and telephone scams, research shows older residents are also more likely to become victims of doorstep crime.

Where intelligence is revealed of actionable doorstep criminality during the visits, older people will be supported to give evidence so that Police and Trading Standards enforcement staff can conduct criminal investigations, and where appropriate, initiate legal proceedings.

In addition, the project will provide additional data information to help understand the scale of the crime and develop appropriate support systems to alleviate the detrimental effects on victims and their families.

Training, advice and support will be provided to volunteers to enable them to visit scam victims in their homes.

Trading Standards said reports about scams to their organisation had virtually doubled in recent years. During 2014-15, 790 complaints were received in the county compared to 400 in 2009-10.

ENDS

Media Enquiries: 

PCC Alan Charles: Sallie Blair 01283 821012 / 07702 541401

Posted on Friday 18th September 2015
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