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These scams are aimed at businesses as well as consumers.
Scams can affect anyone and becoming a victim can have a serious effect on people’s physical and mental health as well as their finances.
Millions of people in the UK are scammed every year losing hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds with the total annual loss estimated at around £5 billion.
Research shows 48% of the population has been targeted by a scam – and around half of the victims have reported suffering ill health as a result with older and vulnerable residents being most at risk.
In Derbyshire the average age of a mail scam victim is 77 and 90% have recently been widowed or live alone. Bereavement, isolation and loneliness are common factors.
Scams fall into 4 main types:
- telephone scams including nuisance telephone calls claiming to be from reputable companies and offering to sort out issues like computer viruses or insurance
- online scams - highlighting online ‘copycat’ websites which charge fees for services like passport renewals, driving tests and tax returns
- mail scams about lotteries, prize draw catalogues, psychics and other similar schemes
- doorstep scams - tackling doorstep cold callers offering services like free boilers, insulation or solar panels
Reporting levels are as low as 5% for some types of scam so the full financial and emotional cost isn't known. This is made worse by many victims being too embarrassed or frightened to tell anyone.
Our trading standards team works with Citizens Advice, the Trading Standards Institute, the police and other agencies to tackle all kinds of scam, support victims and provide advice and information about what action they can take.
We also urge carers, families and friends to be on lookout for signs older or vulnerable residents are being scammed, such as unplanned work being carried out around the house, unusual financial transactions or high levels of unsolicited mail.
Carers are encouraged to raise the subject directly, encourage them to talk and offer support.
How to spot a scam
Scam letters and emails will look professional and seem convincing and cold callers will sound genuine – but our advice to consumers and businesses is to steer clear.
If you’re offered something that seems too good to be true, before you respond, stop and consider:
- Was the offer unsolicited?
- How can I have won a competition of lottery that I haven't entered?
- Did the offer come from overseas?
- Why do I have to respond immediately - what's the rush?
- Do I have to make a purchase or send money to win a prize?
- Do I have to give my bank or credit card details?
- Why would my bank ask me to confirm my account details to them?
- Do I have to send money to a PO Box number?
- Why am I being asked to keep it confidential?
- Can I afford to lose the money?
Action you can take to tackle scams
We’ve teamed up with Age UK Derby and Derbyshire and the Citizens Advice Bureaux to set up a new consumer protection scheme.
Scam Watch offers victims of scams one-to-one support and provides direct help and advice as well as raising awareness about phone, mail, online and doorstep scams.
Funded by a £25,000 Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Grant, the scheme will:
- recruit and train volunteers to visit scam mail victims at home
- ensure victims receive direct help and are referred to other appropriate sources of support
- install ‘call blockers’ – devices which filter out unwanted or cold calls – in the homes of vulnerable, high-risk phone scam victims
For more information, visit Scam Watch.
Help for people who’ve been scammed
Think Jessica is a Derbyshire-based charity set up to help and support people affected by scammers and also to highlight the effects on victims.
Age UK has a national helpline, tel: 0800 169 6565 or you can contact Age UK Derby and Derbyshire which can provide a wide range of help and support for local older people and carers. Residents can call the local service, tel: 01773 768240.
Derbyshire Victim Services offer free and confidential support to victims of crime, tel: 0808 612 6505.
We also provide a number of services to help older people live safely and independently, increase confidence and reduce social isolation.
Derbyshire Trusted Befriending Network
We're working in partnership with South Derbyshire Council for Voluntary Services to develop Derbyshire Trusted Befriending Network. The network ensures that isolated and vulnerable adults can find befriending services. For more information contact the network coordinator, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 01283 219761.
Our Trusted Trader scheme can help protect residents from rogue traders and high pressure sales techniques. There are over 1,000 traders signed up including builders, gardeners, plumbers and decorators who pledge to do a good job at a fair price with good customer service. Our trading standards team checks out all applicants for complaints or county court judgements to give residents additional peace of mind.
Free Trusted Trader ‘Doorstep sellers – don’t call here’ door stickers are available from all our libraries and other community outlets.
Derbyshire’s Handy Van scheme
The handy van scheme supports older and vulnerable people to live more independently and safely in their own homes and helps with products and services they may be tempted to buy from a doorstep caller such as providing and installing burglar alarms and other security equipment.
Residents aged 60 or over or who have been referred because they are vulnerable or at risk are eligible for up to two free home visits a year.
Residents whose worries or concerns about scams are affecting their mental and emotional health, or whose relatives are worried about them, can find a range of support and advice services for mental health.