SAFER project to educate consumers about scams and fraud
Older adults in Leeds and Bradford are now able to benefit from a new initiative from West Yorkshire Trading Standard aimed at raising awareness of scams, frauds and rogue trader activities across the county. Thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund, Trading Standards has just begun the SAFER (Scams and Frauds Education for Residents) project, which involves a range of activity workshops, delivered in local communities, helping increase knowledge, understanding and confidence in dealing with cold calling, scams, frauds and the hazards of doing business on the doorstep.
Against a backdrop of more than 1,000 complaints last year about itinerant traders, doorstep crime activities and scams such as fake Lottery wins, prize draws, bogus psychic predictions, investment cons and miracle health cures, Trading Standards is stepping up the fight to provide preventative support to vulnerable residents. Most victims are older, vulnerable adults, and cases dealt with included a 95 year old conned into purchasing a £3,000 mattress, just 3 months after being conned into buying an identical product and an elderly resident who received over 30,000 scam letters, sending £50,000 in response to fraudsters.
The SAFER initiative aims to help those who are at risk of becoming, or have already become, victim to similar activities, and empower other older people to protect themselves. The project will help reduce the fear of crime and feelings of isolation in older people, as well as increase the financial capability and wellbeing in those residents through sound money management and debt advice.
Over the next two years, the SAFER team will deliver more than 400 community workshops covering a range of topics including: Doorstep Crime; Scams and Frauds; Utility Switching and Financial Health.
Graham Hebblethwaite, West Yorkshire’s Chief Trading Standards Officer urges all local organisations and groups who support older adults in Leeds and Bradford to get in touch saying, ‘'The SAFER project will not only enable residents to feel confident in their communities and help protect themselves against itinerant traders and becoming the victim of scams, but it will also tackle the issues of fuel poverty and increase the health and wellbeing of older people'.
Once enrolled onto a community workshop, residents will have access to the Debt Advice Worker attached to the project who will be able to provide free and confidential debt and money advice, as well carry out benefits checks. Workshops have already begun in Leeds and debt advice drop in sessions will also be available on an ad hoc basis.
Trading Standards is already working in partnership with West Yorkshire Police, Bradford Council/Leeds Council, the NHS and many community and voluntary organisations to help provide front line support for the more isolated residents within the community. Full training will be given to all partner and support agencies who wish to become involved, to ensure project sustainability and continue partnership working.
Already the SAFER team have identified residents who have unwittingly become victims of rogue traders. One such referral involved a trader contacting a 93 year old house bound lady by phone up to six times a day. The trader then would turn up at the address, often staying for a number of hours and selling items at well above cost price such as a small bag of cat litter costing £10. Another example the team has recently discovered relates to an older lady sending a large sum of money as a result of scam mail, with relatives collecting more than three bin liners full of scam letters.
Councillor Neil Taggart, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said 'The Big Lottery funding of this project will enable many different organisations and services to come together to help protect older people who are in great need of this type of support, and will as a result, also develop stronger working relationships with one another, building community cohesion. Residents should be on the look out for suspicious callers and scam mail arriving on their doorsteps or those of vulnerable family and friends.’
Older residents in Leeds and Bradford who are interested in attending community workshops, or other organisations wishing to get involved in the project should contact Carrie Wilson at Trading Standards on 0113 3939809 or email email@example.com