Trading Standards have a programme called Scam Marshalls for any UK resident who has been targeted by a scam and now wants to fight back and take a stand against scams.
Scam Marshals do this by sharing their own experiences, helping others to report and recognise scams and sending any scam mail that they receive to the NTS Scams Team so that it can be used as evidence in future investigative and enforcement work. This work by Scam Marshals plays a huge role in helping to stop the scam mail.
The Scam Marshals programme is to be expanded thanks to new funding from the Home Office as part of the government’s Loneliness Strategy.
National Trading Standards say that scams costing the UK economy between £5bn and £10bn each year and 53% of people aged 65 or over say they have been targeted by a scam, so the Scam Marshals scheme plays a key role in supporting those who have been scammed or defrauded.
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Loneliness can cause people to feel detached from their neighbours and neighbourhoods, which may increase their vulnerability to becoming victims of crime.
“I’m extremely pleased the Home Office can support National Trading Standards in expanding their ‘Scam Marshals’ scheme to improve the resilience of lonely or socially isolated older adults to fraud, scams and financial abuse.”
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The Government’s 2005 Consumer Strategy ‘A Fair Deal for All’, set out a commitment to Regional Trading Standards Scambuster teams.
These teams concentrate on doorstep crime, cowboy builders, online scammers, “get rich quick” schemes, large scale scams and more. They work with other agencies to bring the scammers to justice and have had much success in stopping scammers.
e.g. The Scambuster Wales Team, established by Wales Heads of Trading Standards, was launched in April 2009 and is managed from City of Newport Trading Standards with teams of officers based in the North and South of Wales. The team is comprised of dedicated Trading Standards Officers and experienced ex Police Officers, who work alongside officers from the Police, HM Revenue & Customs and other enforcement agencies. They work across local authority boundaries focusing on the hardest to tackle scams and rogue traders that set out to rip people off.
The team has demonstrated new ways of working through targeted, proactive, intelligence led enforcement. There is now much closer co-operation and data sharing between trading standards and other agencies, partly due to the level of criminality the team has investigated.
Q. What do the scambusters team do that trading standards services can’t?
Dishonest activity is not confined by local authority boundaries. The Scambuster team has the ability to work across a region to tackle the more serious cases. Level 2 criminality describes crime which crosses local authority boundaries. The team aims to tackle such criminality by working on behalf of individual local authority Trading Standards Services. In some cases the team acts as an additional resource or it can be tasked by individual services to carry out investigations on their behalf.
Trading Standards recently carried out its biggest ever investigation, into a group operating as Wyvern Media group.
This group sold advertising space in their publications by cold calling. Sometimes they would claim the company had won a prestigious industry award and must advertise the fact. At times they would call every hour pressurising companies into buying more adverts or at other times they simply charged the clients account for non-existent adverts.
Sadly for the victims the advertising sold was worthless. It was either non-existent or in a back water publication with very low readership but claimed to be a major national publication.
Jonathan Rivers was head of Derby-based Wyvern Media group and led a sophisticated operation employing up to 250 people in 12 offices across the UK and had a turnover of around £7 million.
The Nottingham Crown Court heard he admitted fraudulent trading after more than 500 complaints were lodged.
He was jailed for six years. Four other members of staff were jailed, with a further five given suspended sentences.
Rivers, 55, of Coleshill, Warwickshire, was described by Judge Stuart Rafferty as the “head, heart and soul” of the company, which had about 18,000 customers per year and an estimated annual turnover of £7m.
Several small businesses (including charities) were bankrupted by the actions of the group stealing money from them
These scams leave a trail of misery and broken people and businesses behind them.
Well done Trading Standards in stopping this group.
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Friends Against Scams Will Start Taking Action Now Deliver the Message Against Scams.
The highlight on the letters S T A N D gives the word and you can get the phrase Stand Against Scams from this – very clever.
The introduction on the website states their reason for creating the website as follows
Friends against Scams is a National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to “Take a Stand Against Scams”.
It goes on to explain that the lack of awareness of scams is allowing a lot of scammers to get away with their criminality and Friends Against Scams encourages communities and organisations to take action.
There is a lot of useful content on the website but the starting point is a short video about scams and the damage they cause. Well worth watching. One statistic that stands out is that although anyone of any age can fall victim to a scam, the average age of those scammed is 75. They target the most vulnerable.
Friends Against Scams is also active on Twitter at @AgainstScams
This is a great new development in the fight against scammers and hopefully it will build to a huge public campaign. The more people understand what the scammers do then the more we can protect everyone against them.
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