Over 100 representatives from organisations that work with older and vulnerable residents gathered at Ruskin Drive’s Percival Suite, as St Helens Council Trading Standards Service hosted a national scams awareness event.
Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to take a stand against them.
The day-long event, made up of a morning and afternoon session, saw St Helens Council, Merseyside Police, Helena Housing, Pilkington Welfare and voluntary sector staff, come together to find out how a scam victim can be spotted; how to signpost victims to other sources of support; promote the Friends against Scams initiative in the community and workplace – and to find out in more detail about the different types of scams currently circulating in the area.
· Conmen targeting elderly residents by offering to clean gutters for £20, only to then find purported issues and charge over £300 for unnecessary work.
· Telephone calls offering energy improvement products such as wall and roof coatings, stating that non-existent government grants are available on a one-off basis in the area.
· Telephone calls from fraudsters claiming to be from Microsoft who state resident has an issue with their computer. Resident is persuaded to log on for the fraudster to take control of computer, who then phishes for personal information, including bank details.
Statistics from the National Trading Standards Scams Team have revealed that only 5 per cent of scam offences in the UK are reported, which is often down to the victim – the average age being 75 - feeling too ashamed to come forward.
Figures also show that 53 per cent of people over the age of 65 have been targeted by scams, which affect the lives of millions of people across the UK, and cost the UK economy between £5-10bn per year.
Commenting on the importance of partnership agencies coming together to be educated on scams in order to know what appropriate action to take, Collette Rai, Principal Trading Standards Officer for St Helens Council, said: “The intention of this event was to get as many eyes and ears out in the community, to spot who is being scammed - either by rogue tradesmen, scam mail, or phone calls - so that we can then arrange appropriate interventions and support.
“With increased knowledge and awareness, people can make scams part of everyday conversation with their family, friends and neighbours, which will enable them to protect themselves and others.”