Warning over apparent fire call scam

Reports received by Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service detail how some residents have had telephone calls from a company offering an alternative way of raising the alarm if a fire occurs.

It is said that a representative from the company during conversations with those targeted says emergency calls received by the Fire and Rescue Service are not being dealt with because of hoax calls.

It is believed they then go on to say they could sell a service to residents to contact emergency services directly via their company if fires occur.

Trading Standards officers will investigate any reports they receive about the apparent scam, and are urging people who have been called to get in touch with them so they can gain more information.

Totally false claims

Stuart Garner, Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service's Home and Community Safety Manager, said: "Those behind these totally false reported claims are making deliberately misleading telephone calls to people in an attempt to sell what is in fact a completely unnecessary service.

"I want to categorically reassure people that the county's Fire and Rescue Service will respond to every 999 call it receives - there is absolutely no question about that whatsoever and it is entirely wrong for anybody to try and claim otherwise."

Council managers involved in the delivery of services for the elderly have been briefed about the scam and information about it has been given to Age UK Oxfordshire.

Be aware

Richard Webb, the county council's Trading Standards Manager, said: "People who have received these calls may become fearful about what they have been told and may feel that the false service they are being offered is required - the clear message is that it is not.

"We know about some people who target the elderly and vulnerable and try and scare them into parting with money for something. Clearly this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.

"I and my team are keen to learn more about this apparent scam - those who are responsible for this are in fact the ones making the hoax calls as they are incorrectly saying that Fire and Rescue Service calls are not being dealt with because of hoax calls."

People urged to report approaches

Councillor Louise Chapman, the Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Fire and Rescue Service and Trading Standards said: "This sounds like a particularly unpleasant sort of approach which appears designed to undermine the important work our Fire and Rescue Service does in keeping the public as safe as is possible.

"I would urge anybody who gets one of these calls to report them to Trading Standards so officers can investigate and also to the police by calling 101."

People can contact Trading Standards on 0845 051 0845; by email to trading.standards@oxfordshire.gov.uk or in person or by post at Trading Standards Service, Oxfordshire County Council, Electric Avenue, Ferry Hinksey Road, Oxford, OX2 OBY.