News item

West Yorkshire trading standards team nominated for national award

 This week, the West Yorkshire Trading Standards SAFER (Scams and Fraud Education for Residents) Project Team have been shortlisted for the Credit Today Awards under the Fraud Prevention Team of the Year category. The team join 153 other finalists, from every sector of the credit industry, who have been recognised for demonstrating high quality innovation and best practice in the field. 

The accolade comes after an outstanding 15 months for the trail blazing project ,which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and covers both Leeds and Bradford, raising awareness of scams, frauds and doorstep crime amongst older residents and arming them with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves. 

With older age comes an increased vulnerability to such activity, and over half of the over 60’s have been targeted at some point. SAFER aims to tackle the issue through a number of strands including interactive community workshops where residents can share information and learn from peers, frontline worker training for a range of organisations entering the homes of vulnerable people to assist in victim identification, and community champion recruitment to be the eyes and ears of the community, providing support for the most socially isolated and helping to reduce the fear of crime in neighbourhoods. In addition to this, the project offers support to those who have fallen foul to this activity through a debt advice service. 

To date more than 3000 older people have engaged with the project and actively shown increased confidence in dealing with cold callers and scammers and being able to report to the relevant authorities. 1100 frontline workers have received training with plans to cascade the messages to a massive 30,000 people between them, and 600 community champions and volunteers have signed up to the scheme. 

The debt advice worker has dealt with debt figures totalling £350,000, writing off more than half of that on behalf of clients, and achieving a staggering £450,000 through income maximisation. Much of that additional income received by residents is then used to support the local economy and small businesses, with clients using the additional income to improve their health and wellbeing, for example engaging local home care companies, being able to afford transport costs, and being able to purchase mobility aids to support health conditions. 

The programme has also been successful in unearthing a range of victims who may never have come forward prior to being involved in SAFER, as participants feel more empowered to ask for assistance, feel less ashamed and more able to tell family and friends about their concerns, and frontline services are now more aware of the prevalence and impact that scammers and fraudsters can have on society. Some examples include, a resident with over 50 scam letters a week, with the promise of over £17 million in prizes if she sent over £900 in total, a referral to the Stroke Association and the Police for a resident harassed by hundreds of PPI phone calls, a resident who was unwittingly a victim of a miracle cure scam, spending £100s a month on pills for arthritis and scammers who threatened an elderly lady with prison if she didn’t pay for a bogus loan that she had never taken out. 

Organisations wishing to get involved in the 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 

For more information about the awards, please visit: http://www.credittodayawards.co.uk 

Notes to editor: 

Photograph of the SAFER team: (from left to right) Angela Cawthra (Debt Advice worker), Lanson Moore (SAFER Project Officer for Bradford), Carrie Wilson (SAFER Project Officer for Leeds) 

DATE: 10 March 2014