Friends Against Scams” in Oxfordshire: Would you like to become a SCAMChampion?
Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards are asking people to “Take a Stand Against Scams”
This month, National Trading Standards started offering free call blockers to any person living with dementia that is currently receiving scam or nuisance calls. It’s the latest initiative in the Friends Against Scams campaign launched last year to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams and empowering communities. Locally, the county council introduced free training and local awareness sessions, available online and face-to-face to provide people with the confidence and skills they need to identify and prevent scams. Around 100 people have now received training and some have become “SCAMChampions”, which means they are now busy spreading the message and hosting their own sessions to recruit more “Friends.
The campaign aims to inspire action, highlight the scale of the issue by encouraging communities and the nation to talk about scams, change the perception of why people become scam victims and prevent people from becoming or continuing to be a scam victim. However, it is feared that as little as 5% of scams are reported, often because victims are embarrassed or simply unaware that they have been deceived.
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council's Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Trading Standards said: “People from different backgrounds and ages can fall prey to a scam. All victims are unique and scams are much more common than people realise. 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 from scams”
Oxfordshire County Council Chief Fire Officer, Simon Furlong is a SCAMbassador under the scheme: “We have had a positive response to our events raising awareness of scams and encouraging volunteers to join the Friends Against Scams campaign. I became an ambassador against scams because I feel that we need to protect people in our communities, anybody can join and make a difference in their own way. It’s all about turning the knowledge learnt into action”.
SCAMBassadors are MPs, senior officials or someone who will use their influence to raise the profile of scams at a national level.
Reports of online scams to Citizens Advice in Oxford increased by 73% in the past four years. And this relates only to online scams. Good old-fashioned postal, phone scams and doorstep crime are also constantly evolving, making use of new technologies to access and share data about victims.
Recently there have been phone calls to Oxfordshire residents made from people claiming to be from the HMRC in Oxfordshire and other areas. The calls are coming from 020 numbers and claim that arrest warrants have been sent out for Tax Fraud. This is just the latest in a series of sophisticated scams designed to separate people from their money.
Jody Kerman, operations manager for the county's trading standards department, said: “Scams affect the lives of millions of people across the UK. People who are scammed often experience loneliness, shame and social isolation. Friends Against Scams aims to inspire action, highlight the scale of the problem and change the perceptions of why people fall victim to scams. By completing the online learning, anyone can learn about the different types of scams and how to spot and support a victim”.
OCC Trading Standards has planned sessions for early 2018 and companies and organisations can also request a talk.
The average victim loses £1000 to scams
Consumers lose approximately £9 billion to scams each year.
Elderly victims are 2.4 times more likely to die
or go into a care home than those who are not
If someone is persuaded to part with money as a result of
postal, telephone or electronic communication received into
the home they have been scammed. This can often take
place on an industrial scale through:
• Fictitious prize draws
• False investment opportunities
• Pension fraud or bogus equity release schemes
• Clairvoyant or dating scams
• Fake lotteries
Scammers have victims lists there are now over 750, 000 on such “suckers lists” that fraudsters circulate
Victims don’t report being scammed because of shame or intimidation
Applications for a free call blocker for people living with dementia can be made from via www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/callblocker