Vulnerable people in Birmingham who may have fallen victim to mass marketing scams are to receive advice and support after city councillors voted to sign an agreement with the National Scams Team.
Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee yesterday (17 June) agreed for Trading Standards to receive referrals from the National Scams Team (NST), which sends local authorities addresses of residents in their area who are either known or potential scam victims.
During an initial trial, Birmingham’s Trading Standards team received 35 referrals for Birmingham residents who had replied to scam mail, sending money off to enter a bogus prize draw.
People who think they have been scammed should initially contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 404 05 06, but referrals from the NST will help Trading Standards officers to identify potential victims in Birmingham, who are often more vulnerable and socially isolated.
The NST operates as a referral system between agencies, gathering and sharing intelligence on scams and the people behind them, as well as raising awareness of the dangers in a bid to stop this type of financial abuse.
According to recent Age UK figures, 14.5m people believe they have been targeted by a scam but many are reluctant to report it: only eight per cent go to the police and nine per cent seek advice from organisations such as Citizens’ Advice.
Officers visiting older or vulnerable people found that often victims are very proud and find it difficult to admit they have sent money to fraudsters, often knowing that it is a scam.
As a result of this information-sharing agreement, Trading Standards may also make referrals to adult social care where individuals are thought to be particularly at risk from fraudsters’ scams.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Signing up to the National Scams Team’s referral system will enable our Trading Standards officers to help older and more vulnerable people across the city, by giving them advice that may prevent them from falling victim to scams.
“It’s a disgrace that scammers often target elderly and vulnerable people with sophisticated scams, such as posing as their bank or phone company. People regularly contact Trading Standards with heart-breaking stories about con artists taking their money, so getting these referrals will help our officers to prevent such cases in future.”
Louise Baxter, National Trading Standards Scams Team manager, said: “We’re delighted Birmingham City Council has chosen to become the latest local authority to sign up to the scheme.
“In the three years we’ve been running, we’ve identified more than 10,000 confirmed scam victims and 200,000 potential victims. We have recorded just under £13 million of money lost to fraudsters and saved victims £5 million by intervening and preventing further losses.
“People in Birmingham will now be able to benefit from the growing pool of intelligence and expertise we can offer in the fight against scammers who target residents in the city.”
For tips on how to avoid being scammed, visit Think Twice page on the council’s website www.birmingham.gov.uk/tslatestnews
To report suspected scams, contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 404 05 06 or email email@example.com
Media contact: Emma Brady, Press and PR Officer, on 0121 303 6969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org