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Say Hello to... Trading Standards East Midlands (Training Day)

Posted 24/04/24

Kerry Nicol and Ellie Lecomber-Clark, from CTSI's Policy and Communications team, were lucky to attend the TSEM training event with Dr Elisabeth Carter (Criminologist and Forensic Linguist), and Dr Tim Day (CTSI's Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime).

Pictured here (left to right): Kerry Nicol, Dr Tim Day, Dr Lis Carter and Ellie Lecomber-Clark.

The Psychology of Scams

Across two riveting sessions, Dr Lis Carter from Carter and Day Consultancy and Dr Tim Day took delegates through live analyses of real interactions between fraudsters and victims - demonstrating the reality of fraud victimisation as a type of coercion and abuse, and highlighting how common current protection messaging techniques sometimes not only miss the mark in protecting the public but can inadvertently cause harm. Delegates were also given insights into how low the reporting rate is for fraud, and how often the harm goes beyond just financial.

PART 1: 'Love Bombing'

Dr Carter gave a fantastic presentation that looked at the narratives around victims of romance fraud and ‘Love Bombing’ and how it is often associated with very negative statements, such as "How could you fall for that" and "How could you not see they were just trying to take your money, they never loved you."

But as the training session demonstrated these criminals use coercive behaviour from the very first interaction to build trust, often way before any mention of money is made. The criminals make gestures, which feel and seem genuine, like buying flowers – this is a way for criminals to gain the victims address – which they can use as a threat later down the line – ‘I know where you live’.

When the ‘relationship’ has some foundations, then the asking for money begins. The criminals will ensure they are seen by the victim as the ‘good guys’ and that banks and family members questioning the relationship, and handing over of money, are pitched by the criminal as being the ‘bad guys’. ‘Who are these people to question your happiness’ are some of the statements made by the criminals. Some of the messages shown in the training session really evidenced the depths that these criminals go to to make the victim isolated from their usual support networks.

The training session provided insights into how Trading Standards and the Police need to work smarter to use language that allows the victim to recognise that they are being the victim of fraud, and to not push them away. A useful work around is to provide the victim of ways to seek proof for themselves that they are being taken advantage of, to invoke curiosity to question the criminal more when they are asking for money. Often once pushed the criminals approach will turn into a more aggressive approach, showing who they really are – a criminal!

During a breakout session, the Trading Standards and Police Officers in attendance looked at their own scam messaging and if the language was inline with what had been presented in the session. It’s important we move away from language such as ‘if it seems to good to be true it probably is’ and ‘scammers prey on the vulnerable’.

Evidence shows that ANYONE can be the victim of fraud.

PART 2: Doorstep Crime and 'Rogue Traders'

In the second half of the session, Dr Tim Day concentrated on doorstep crime and rogue trading, setting out the current situation and the shift to prevent and protect work, before making the case for robust enforcement.

Tim used examples from his professional experience and his academic research to explore the anatomy of rogue trading and practical guidance on how to approach enforcement, and the importance of Trading Standards and the Police having a united approach to doorstep crime. He provided insights into how there is a link between doorstep crime and distraction burglary, and how 10% of victims of distraction burglary require hospital admission in the 3 months following the incident.

Tim expertly took delegates through some of the ways we can stop these crimes:

  • Robust enforcement
  • Partnership working
  • Adopt language that partners understand
  • Understanding the Modus Operandi (MO) and potential offences that have been committed to take criminal action.

The training session ended with a quiz that tested the knowledge in the room of what offences could be used for which elements of the crime. The knowledge and expertise in the room was palpable and the CTSI staff in attendance certainly came away with a greater understanding of how critical this area of consumer protection is.


Special thanks to:  Dr Lis Carter from Carter and Day Consultancy, Dr Tim Day and Vanessa Gellatly, Lisa Foster and Clare Mundy from the Trading Standards East Midlands branch, for inviting us to their excellent event.



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