WARNING ON PRIZE DRAWS AND LOTTERIES SCAMS AFTER VULNERABLE WOMAN’S HOME FOUND PACKED WITH PERFUMES, JEWELLERY, BISCUITS AND POTS OF JAM ‘Iris’ had paid out £10,000 – including six payments to same charity
Trading standards officers in Bromley are warning residents to be aware of the pitfalls related to responding to prize draws and lotteries. They are also encouraging residents to raise the issue with family members or friends who may be particularly vulnerable.
The advice follows an incident where the trading standards team were alerted to the plight of a vulnerable resident who has been tricked into parting with almost £10,000 in order to receive large cash prizes promised in fictitious prize draws, and by making donations to numerous charities leaving her struggling to pay for her most basic needs.
Investigations are continuing but the matter came to light in December when the very worried elderly lady contacted a distant relative and told him she only had about £200 left in her bank account and was struggling to pay her rent.
On looking into the matter further the relative was very concerned about Iris (not her real name), her finances and her general well-being and contacted the social care team.
The Trading Standards team were then alerted by social workers who had recently received training from them. Social workers had recognised some of the signs of someone suffering from being scammed or suffering financial abuse.
This included large amounts of mail, boxes of creams and perfumes, cheap jewellery and numerous tins of biscuits and pots of jam all which indicated a classic case.
In addition, bank statements revealed that not only had Iris been spending vast sums each month on unwanted products, she had been donating to up 10 different charities each month, with one month’s donations totalling in excess of £400, including six separate direct debits to the same charity.
This represented a considerable proportion of her monthly income, leaving little money for food, heating and other essential expenditure.
When Trading Standards officers visited Iris they found the lounge, bedroom and hallway were overrun with scam mail and goods that had been purchased in order to obtain the winnings of fictitious prize draws. The situation was one of the worst seen in Bromley and was causing Iris considerable anxiety, not being able to pay her way nor having room to move around in her home.
With her agreement, Trading Standards officers and family members cleared her home of the scam mail and purchased items.
Iris’s purchases were reviewed and over 250 personal care products had been purchased at overinflated prices by her since January 2016. They included “luxury” shower gels, foot care, food supplements, perfumes, soaps, joint creams, anti-ageing products and beauty serums. Some products were purchased more than 10 times each and all were unopened and unused.
Iris also purchased many other multiple items for the home, jams, biscuits (26 tins), blankets, scarves, clocks, soft toys, handbags, ornaments and 35 pouches containing cheap jewellery/lucky charms.
A Bromley council spokesman said: “Scamming is increasingly recognised as a form of financial abuse and the elderly and vulnerable are being particularly targeted.
“It is estimated that 3.2 million people fall victim to scams each year losing £3.5billion to these criminals with less than five per cent of people reporting being scammed.”
Further information about Trading Standards and rogue traders is available by visiting http://www.bromley.gov.uk/tradingstandards.
Residents are also advised they can contact Bromley’s Trading Standards team by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org especially if it is known that someone may be a victim of a scam.
For a victim of a doorstep crime who needs immediate assistance, the trading standards rapid response contact is 07903 852090. (Source: Bromley council press release)
FREE COURSES TO HELP STOP COLD CALLERS AND DOORSTEP SCAMMERS
Friends, neighbours, loved ones – any or all could be targeted by scammers, rogue traders and doorstep fraudsters, and that is why Croydon council’s trading standards team are recommending a course designed to help combat the menace.
The initiative has been launched to raise awareness of the sort of scams commonly used, and to encourage people to take a stand against them.
Scammers most often target people in vulnerable situations – the Friends Against Scams initiative aims to protect and prevent these people from becoming victims of this type of fraud by empowering communities to take a stand against scams.
Launched by the National Trading Standards Scams Team, the free initiative is open to anyone who wants to protect themselves, their neighbours or their loved ones against scams.
The Friends Against Scams (FAS) awareness sessions are for anybody to attend – from the general public, to professionals working with people in vulnerable circumstances.
In addition, SCAMchampion sessions – also free of charge – are being rolled out to provide people with the confidence and skills they need to identify and prevent scams, and who would like to be able to deliver the FAS sessions to people in their community.
Online access to the necessary resources is provided for people to download and use for training. For example, a care agency might wish to train all the members of its team, but only one member would need to join the FAS and SCAMchampion sessions in order to do that.
Both courses will be held on Tuesday 7 February at the City of London Corporation. To become a SCAMchampion, delegates will have had to attend the FAS session held in the morning. Attendance of both will take half a day.
Cllr Hamida Ali, Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “Cold callers who heartlessly defraud life savings from their often vulnerable victims are an ongoing scourge of modern society, and, sadly, Croydon is not immune.
“These courses, organised by the National Trading Standards Scam Team, are held in London but are worth the time and effort to attend for any who can get along there.
“While the Friends Against Scams session alerts people to the dangers, the SCAMchampion course equips attendees with the tools to come back to Croydon and tell others of the dangers and how to avoid them.”
More information and booking details can be found at http://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk (Source: Croydon council press release)