Scams Awareness Month is not just for July

Barry Macleod-Cullinane, Local Government Officer

Scams Awareness Month always proves to be one of the most high profile and popular campaigns that Citizens Advice runs annually. This July, Scams Awareness Month again has highlighted the harm done by scammers, what people can do to protect themselves and how to report scams.

Yet, even as 2016’s Scams Awareness Month draws to a close, we know that the scammers will continue; unfortunately, scams are a problem for our clients and their wider communities throughout the year.

Seeking support

We know from our clients that scams can be ruinous; sometimes people lose their life savings. Other scams are relatively small and often go unreported; but they still add up, they still make our clients’ lives more difficult, sometimes forcing people to seek support — and they are still crimes whose perpetrators must be held accountable.

One of the most common scams targeting elderly and vulnerable residents is the so-called “doorstep scam”. In fact, 85% of the victims of doorstep scams are over 65, with the scammers seeking either money or to gain access to the home, with a view to stealing items.  

Safeguarding issues

The impact of doorstep crime on victims is not merely financial; one study found that the health of victims declines faster than that of non-victims of a similar age. Further, given how doorstep scam victims are typically older and 2.4 times as likely to be in receipt of care support, such crimes also present a safeguarding issue for councils as well as creating potentially significant health and social care costs.

Whilst prevention is better than cure – “if you’re unsure, don’t open the door”, “trust your gut feeling” – any scam should be reported. However, because scams often go unreported, fewer resources are devoted to tackling scams. To change things, victims need to take a stand: people can report scams through Citizens Advice’s consumer helpline, who will tip-off trading standards and the police. Another way is to report scams to their local councillors, who can raise the issue as a matter of safeguarding and wider public protection.

Prioritising scams

In the coming months, our local Citizens Advice will be contacting their councils (particularly those lead councillors responsible for promoting public protection and the interests of vulnerable residents) and Police and Crime Commissioners to discuss a more strategic approach to tackling scams. Concerned consumers can also contact councillors and their PCCs to request that tackling scams is made a priority. Citizens Advice wants to work in partnership with councils and PCCs to expand the education, prevention and reporting aspects of Scams Awareness Month, building tackling scams into their corporate plans for the whole year.

 

For more information on Scams Awareness Month contact adrian.galvin@citizensadvice.org.uk

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2 comments

  1. Simon Harris

    Indeed. Two examples from August: several people (including a former staff member and a friend of a current staff member) have recently reported to us being cold-called by someone pretending to be from CAB, offering debt advice in return for their bank details. This one has been running for a while.

    The other is a happy ending: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/8216-vulnerable-victims-8217-were-8216-overcharged-8217-thousands-by-rogue-traders-plumbing-scam/story-29611002-detail/story.html (copy and paste into your browser). This issue was reported to us over a year ago and referred to Trading Standards. Fortunately patience was rewarded and after a TSD and police investigation the culprits were convicted and jailed. So, reporting scams does work … sometimes.

  2. ellen henderson

    Tax Scam alert. I received a text at 00.05 4th August saying “you have an outstanding refund £265.84 from hmrc. Use our secure link to process your refund. Your bank may ask for verification. Told me to click on link http/bit.ly/2ango2S. Needless to say I didn’t. Did call Action Fraud though.

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