West Yorkshire Trading Standards has been supporting hundreds of residents in West Yorkshire who have been targeted by scams. In the past year alone, the specialist team dedicated to dealing with scams have provided advice and support to over 500 residents who have lost over £250,000.
According to latest figures from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, it is estimated that by providing such advice and support to these victims, they will now save almost £60,000 by no longer being in a position whereby they are responding to such scams. Overall, since officers began working with the 5000 West Yorkshire victims of mass marketing fraud on the so-called ‘suckers list’, Trading Standards has identified a total loss of over £4.5 Million sent to scammers, with the intervention preventing further future losses of over £1.2 Million.
Many vulnerable residents have been plagued by unwanted calls. In some cases Trading Standards is able to provide call-blocking equipment to help them to reduce the number of unwanted calls that they receive on a daily basis. In the last 12 months over 40 have been installed, with an estimated financial saving as a result of over £678,000. Some of the recent scams include people receiving automated messages from callers purporting to be from HMRC where the caller states that a tax debt is owed. Others are made by criminals purporting to be from telephone and broadband providers stating that the person’s phone line or broadband will be cut off. In one case, a resident who had lost £2,400 to a telephone scam, received over 12 scam calls over a two hour period during a home visit from Trading Standards, meaning the victim had probably been receiving hundreds of calls a week. This resident had a call blocker installed, blocking the majority of these scam calls.
Residents are also invited to join the National Trading Standards Scams Team’s Scam Marshall Scheme. The scheme encourages those who have been targeted by scams to work with the National Team by forwarding any scam mail that they receive to the team, along with details of any scam calls that they receive. This may be used by the National Scams Team for investigative and enforcement work and also help them to alert others about emerging scams. This approach empowers victims to make a stand against scams, alongside providing vital intelligence that can be used to help others. Trading Standards has recruited 17 new West Yorkshire Scam Marshalls this year, bringing the overall total of people signed up in the County to over 100. Scam Marshalls and residents of West Yorkshire are encouraged to report scams to Action Fraud on 0300 1232040.
Trading Standards takes a holistic approach by not just providing advice to people about how they can spot and protect themselves against scams in the future, but also by identifying other needs that they may have. This may include referrals to other agencies such as Victim Support, organisations that help to tackle social isolation, local interest groups and adult services who can assist with care and support needs.
David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said “The impact of scams on victims can be very far reaching. It can have a significant impact on their physical health and mental well-being. Preventative work with scam victims can, in some cases, prevent victims from having to move into residential care.”
Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Governance and Audit Sub-Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “New and inventive scams emerge at such an alarming rate. It is important that this work continues to empower people to protect themselves against these scams and to look out for others in the wider community.”
If you or anyone you know is receiving high volumes of scam calls or has been affected by scams please get in touch by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506.