A local community in Dudley is banding together and encouraging businesses and organisations to sign up to an anti-scam initiative. In the borough of Dudley an estimated £3.1 Million is lost each year to scammers, who specifically target elderly and vulnerable people. Their details are circulated amongst fraudsters on what is known as a ‘Sucker List’, meaning some of these people are repeatedly targeted.

In an effort to tackle the problem, 1 year ago, Dudley’s Council Trading Standards department, launched a Scams Unit. They are now asking businesses, organisations, residents and voluntary services help to stop the scammers and protect those most vulnerable. And now, the Scams Unit have launched a National Trading Standards (NTS) online course to help raise awareness. The course aims to give users an understanding of the types of scams used to defraud people, and the warning signs of someone who could potentially being targeted, and what to do if someone is a victim.

The course only takes around 20 minutes to complete and can be found on the Dudley Council website. Councillor Cathy Bayton, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “As a SCAMbassador for the authority I’m passionate we do all we can to put an end to this criminal activity taking place right on our doorstep. There’s big money in this for scammers and they are well-rehearsed at manipulating the most vulnerable in our communities, often stripping people of their life savings. This is not acceptable and it’s why the work of our scams unit is so valuable. To support their efforts, all we ask is for people to take 20 minutes out of their day to complete the course as the better informed they are, the more likely they are to stop someone, whether it’s a family member, friend or client, falling victim to a scam.”

Dudley residents are being urged to report a potential scam by calling the Trading Standards’ scams unit on 01384 818871.

The most common types of scams used to target vulnerable people:

It is estimated that around £10 billion is lost each year in the UK to fraud and elderly people, especially those with dementia are at particular risk. Because older people are more likely to live on their own, and are often lonely, they become targets for fraudsters. And for some people, their only form of social contact is with commercial organisations, legitimate or fraudulent. They might receive telemarketing calls, emails or letters, or open the door to a scammer purporting to be a bona fide salesman or tradesman.  Sometimes strong relationships can develop between scammers and their elderly victims, if a high level of contact is maintained.

Romantic scams: A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigning romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudsters may try to contact you by making fake profiles, getting in touch and building what feels like a loving relationship. Once a fraudster using a fake dating profile is confident that they’ve won your trust, they will tell you about a problem they’re experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money. They may have arranged to visit you, but need money to pay for the flight or visa. They may tell you everything has been booked but their ticket has been stolen, and you need to send money quickly to get them on the next flight. Alternatively, they may prey on your sympathies, telling you a family member or someone else they are responsible for is ill and they need money for medical treatment. Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back and invent new reasons to send them more.

Prize scams: Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered. To claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. The scammers make money by continually collecting these fees from you and stalling the payment of your winnings.

Direct financial scam: There are many direct financial scams and fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to scam money from vulnerable people. Some scams are so slick, even the most vigilant can be duped. It is important to remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Protect yourself from scams:

Never respond to any emails, text messages, letter or social media that look suspicious, or that have bad spelling or grammar.

A genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue asking for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. If you receive a message like this, ignore it.

If someone you have never met before asks you for money, do not give them any and report it.

Always question uninvited contact. This is relevant whether it is on the doorstep, over the phone, by post or online. Always contact the company directly  yourself.

Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected text or email. Make sure you use a strong password, and change them regularly.

Trust your instincts, if you feel at all wary or suspicious, you’re probably right.

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