Trading Standards officers have revealed that they face a ‘constant battle’ to stay ahead of con artists who cost victims in the UK more than £5 billion a year.
Teams who work within Nottingham City Council’s Community Protection department carry out visits to people who have been targeted in scams.
These are victims who have been tricked into either parting with their money, or sharing their debit or credit card details.
Trading Standards provide help and support, advise victims on how to protect themselves from fraudsters, and fit call-blockers which stop nuisance phone calls from coming through.
Telephone scams are closely linked to mail and internet cons, and call-blockers are designed to filter out unwanted calls. It is often the most vulnerable members of the community who are targeted.
Councillor Toby Neal, Portfolio Holder for Community Protection at Nottingham City Council, said: “Our officers carry out more than 100 visits every year to the homes of scam victims, as well as trying to promote safety messages to the public.
“The aim is to stop people becoming victims in the first place, but we will also be there to help if someone has been affected.
“What makes this such a distressing crime is that those who carry out these scams deliberately target elderly and vulnerable people because they know that they have a greater chance of success.
“We hear stories about victims in Nottingham who have been tricked out of very substantial sums of money – sometimes life savings. It is a constant battle but we will continue to stand up for these people and protect them in any way we can.”
Trading Standards has the following advice:
- Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
- Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- Never send money to someone you haven’t met before
- Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
- Walk away from job adverts that ask for money in advance
- Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
- If you suspect a scam, hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to report it
- If a caller is using persuasive sales patter, just say ‘No thank you’ and hang up
- Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams
- Remember that Trading Standards officers and Council officials will always carry an official photo ID card
Victims should report a scam to more than one organisation. Contact Nottingham City Council Trading Standards (via the Citizens’ Advice consumer helpline) on 03454 04 05 06 and also Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or http://www.actionfraud.police.uk
Nottingham City Council Trading Standards are on Facebook and you can follow them on Twitter through @NottmCityTS.
Friends Against Scams also offers short online courses to help people protect themselves and others against fraudsters.
During a recent visit, Trading Standards officers met 81-year-old Denis Robinson, from Bulwell. Mr Robinson had been contacted out-of-the-blue in the street, at his home and over the telephone. The former journalist recalled his experiences and the tactics used by the fraudsters to try to get his money:
“Four years after I nearly became the victim of a major scam, the experience still rankles. I was stupid enough to be taken in by a glossy leaflet, advertising a ‘professional’ gardener to do work for elderly and disabled people. I was even more foolish by letting him loose in my garden in Bulwell without checking how much he was going to charge me.
“After two hours in the garden, he told me he had used chemicals which meant I would not get any more weeds for five years. When it came to the bill, he said he had ‘knocked £200 off’, so it would just come to £2,300!
“Going through a health problem at the time, I was numb with shock. I told the man I didn’t keep so much money in the house and he asked how much I had in my wallet.
“I made the excuse that I needed to consult my bank and he said he would come back two days later for £1,000. In the meantime, I contacted Trading Standards and the Police, with the result that a notice was put on my front door, stating that ‘harassment of the resident at this address could lead to a prosecution’. I never saw the gardener again.
“In another scam a year ago, a conman with a dexterous sleight of hand relieved me of £100 after asking me to change a fiver. He was later caught after committing a series of similar offences.
“I could also mention the brazen fraudster who called and asked me for ‘the £150 you owe me for doing your guttering while you were out’. I sent him packing and he said ‘Sorry, sir’ as he walked away.”