News item

West Yorkshire Police Champion SAFER Project in Leeds and Bradford

West Yorkshire’s Trading Standards’ ‘SAFER’ Project has now trained up over 500 PCSOs and Police Officers across the Leeds and Bradford districts in its mission to help protect older and vulnerable residents from falling victim to scammers and fraudsters. Current estimates suggest that scams and frauds cost UK consumers £3.5 Billion each year.

West Yorkshire Police and many other local organisations have come on board with the Big Lottery funded SAFER (Scams and Frauds Education for Residents) initiative. The project aims to help seek out the isolated and lonely older people who could be silent victims of scams, or who might be completely unaware that they are actually being targeted by rogue traders.

Without having received training from the SAFER team, Leeds PCSO Jackie Park might not have identified one 89 year old lady who had regularly been sending her money to a mass marketing postal scam. The lady had originally contacted her local NPT (Neighbourhood Police Team) following a doorstep crime incident where a rogue trader quoted £1000 for a block-paving job but ended up charging her £3000. After visiting the lady, PCSO Park said, “without the training input from the SAFER sessions, and learning that quite often doorstep crime victims are also likely to be targeted with other scams and frauds, I might not have thought to ask the lady if she had ever received scam mail – this questioning then lead me to discover that she actually was already a scam victim”.

Thankfully, because the SAFER initiative is being championed by West Yorkshire Police in this way, the lady has now received a further home visit from PCSO Park along with a SAFER self- help pack, full of top tips, tools and advice on what to do in the event of being targeted by a scammer or doorstep caller. The lady is now one of 1500 older people who have been educated and supported by the SAFER team since it launched in November 2012, and like others has said she is confident that scammers will not get a hold of her money again.

Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said “This case is a clear example of why we are keen to work alongside West Yorkshire Police and other organisations who regularly come into contact with isolated and vulnerable older people who we otherwise would not be able to identify as victims. Currently, only 8% of individuals report that they have been scammed to the Police or Citizens Advice, mainly due to fear of embarrassment, by working together on local projects like ‘SAFER’, we will hopefully be able to raise an awareness among older people that getting scammed is actually quite common, nothing to be ashamed of, and there is support and advice out there to help”.

PCSO Park has also since been able to refer this lady and other vulnerable residents living on the same street as her to the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Cold Calling Control Zone initiative, which now has over 100 zones across West Yorkshire. The schemes have proven success in deterring bogus callers, rogue traders and pushy sales people from turning up on the doorstep uninvited.

Meanwhile, the SAFER team will also offer a series of fun, informal educational workshops to the lady and other residents living on her street to ensure that they are all equipped with the confidence, skills and knowledge to protect themselves in their own homes.

By the end of this two year Big Lottery funded project, over 800 partner agency staff, including West Yorkshire Police and 400 volunteers will have been trained on how to identify and support victims of scams and frauds to champion the project and ensure this type of vital support is continued in future years.

To report scams and frauds to Trading Standards, please ring the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.

Organisations wishing to get involved in the SAFER project should contact:

Carrie Wilson for Leeds on 0113 393 9809 or cwilson@wyjs.org.uk

Lanson Moore for Bradford on 0113 393 9808 or lmoore1@wyjs.org.uk

 DATE: 29 July 2013