Would you recognise the signs that someone you know is being targeted by fraudsters – and would you know how to report it?
Day three of London Trading Standards Week is focused on scams and doorstep sales, and how to protect yourself and others from scams.
Rogue trading and scams are nothing new to the capital – about half of UK adults will be targeted every year. Loneliness and social isolation can make vulnerable and older people at greater risk from these crimes, but we are all at risk, London Trading Standards warns.
Sadly, residents of Croydon, too, have fallen foul of scammers who have no compunction in relieving their victims of, in some cases, thousands of pounds of their life savings.
The council’s trading standards team is extremely proactive in the fight against such fraudsters, establishing good relationships with banks and building societies across the borough who alert officers if customers, particularly the older and more vulnerable, start to withdraw large sums from their accounts in contrast to their usual pattern of withdrawals.
Earlier this year, an elderly female victim, from the Park Hill area, was cold called by a man at her front door claiming that the roof of her next-door neighbour was in urgent need of repair, requiring scaffolding to be erected.
A short while later, the resident was phoned by a man calling himself David. He claimed that her roof, too, was in need of urgent work, and that a cash down-payment was required to erect the scaffolding to enable the work to begin.
It was, of course, a scam, and the villains successfully convinced the woman to hand over £2,000 – money that was never seen again.
Indicated below are examples of the wide variety of tactics used by fraudsters to try to rip people off. The cases are recent scams reported to Action Fraud:
Rogue pension websites to trick people into believing that they are legitimate businesses.
‘Something for you’ delivery cards, that look as though they have come from Royal Mail.
Fraudsters posing as local council officials or professionals.
First-year and returning university students at risk of phishing scam.
Croydon’s trading standards team is urging residents to be vigilant, and to look out for their friends and family – who may be suffering in silence. Common signs to look out for include:
- large amount of junk mail in the house;
- high volume of telephone calls;
- inability to pay bills or buy food;
- poor living conditions;
- change of behaviour; and
- unexpected property maintenance, such as gardening or roof work.
Across London, trading standards teams are working closely with key partners to tackle fraudsters, raise awareness and encourage reporting.
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“Scams can have a dreadful effect on their victims, both financially and psychologically. More often than not, the scam is directed against our older residents, people who grew up in a time when people were more trusting.
“Often, the problem lies in the fact that people don’t have sufficient scam awareness – that’s where Friends Against Scams can help. It enables communities and organisations to understand scams, talk about scams and convey messages throughout communities about scam prevention and protection.
“I’d encourage anyone interested in stopping scams to visit the Friends Against Scams website”.
Everybody can help by:
- reporting scams and rogue traders to Trading Standards by ringing the Citizens’ Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506;
- challenging any sudden or unexpected work at an older person’s property – honest traders will not be offended by neighbours or family members asking questions;
- talking to family, friends and neighbours about any concerns; and
- visiting friendsagainstscams.org.uk/ to find out more.
The aim of London Trading Standards Week is to promote and raise awareness about the wide range of work carried out by Trading Standards Services across London. Further details about the rest of the campaign can be found on the website, www.londontradingstandards.org.uk. #LTSweek