The scourge of cruel scam­mers

Un­scrupu­lous com­pa­nies are tar­get­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in Bucks with mail scams. Pushy sales­men are call­ing peo­ple with the prom­ise of a great of­fer and vic­tims, many of whom are suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia and pen­ni­less, are part­ing with money they

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

MOST peo­ple throw junk mail in the bin. But for hun­dreds of Buck­ing­hamshire’s lonely and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, it is the only post they get.

And, say the county coun­cil’s trad­ing stan­dards team, this is when the risk of fall­ing prey to mail scam­mers is high.

In the past two years they have re­ceived almost 100 re­ports of Buck­ing­hamshire vic­tims who have fallen prey to the junk mail scam­mers. Their to­tal loss was nearly £150,000.

In the ap­proach to Christ­mas the team have in­ten­si­fied their in­ves­ti­ga­tions and se­nior trad­ing stan­dards of­fi­cer Chris Holden said there could be many more vic­tims across the county who have not re­ported their losses.

Na­tion­ally, only one in 20 scams is re­ported, said Mr Holden. “The num­ber of vic­tims in the county could well be in the thou­sands, and we could be talk­ing about losses of

SCAN­NING FOR SCAM: Barry Atkins with Trad­ing Stan­dards com­mu­nity cham­pion Tina Ste­wart and the lat­est batch of junk mail mil­lions of pounds,” he said. “We want the warn­ing to go out loud and clear to en­cour­age more peo­ple to let us know.”

Typ­i­cal scams that crop up in junk mail in­clude

It’s all very dis­tress­ing

for me’

lot­tery ‘wins’ and prize draws that prom­ise big wins if the vic­tim sends back money, and cat­a­logues of­fer­ing over-priced goods that en­tice re­sponses with the prom­ise of a cash prize.

Trad­ing stan­dards of­fi­cers have al­ready un­cov­ered an ad­dress in ru­ral Buck­ing­hamshire act­ing as a re­ply cen­tre for peo­ple re­spond­ing to a prize draw scam with £5 ‘ad­min­is­tra­tion fee’ cheques.

On one day they seized 98 re­sponses and £490, which will be re­turned to senders.

Chris and his col­leagues are li­ais­ing with the county coun­cil’s adult so­cial care team and other agen­cies to work through around 250 Buck­ing­hamshire ad­dresses on a na­tional Scams Hub List. They will be mak­ing con­tact to warn po­ten­tial vic­tims about the risks of re­spond­ing to th­ese scams and, with sen­si­tiv­ity, help wean them off or at least mit­i­gate their po­ten­tial losses.

The list, con­tain­ing more than 100,000 names of vul­ner­a­ble and sus­cep­ti­ble peo­ple across the UK, was seized in 2012 by po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing na­tional mail scams.

Chris said: “Mail scams tar­get older, lonely and more vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, and par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble are peo­ple suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia or Alzheimer’s. Fre­quently scam­mers will follow up their mail with a per­sua­sive phone call, which can be very in­tim­i­dat­ing.”

Cab­i­net mem­ber for com­mu­nity en­gage­ment Martin Phillips said: “This per­ni­cious crime is of­ten per­pe­trated by crim­i­nals at arm’s length abroad. It’s a scourge on our com­mu­nity and the work our Trad­ing Stan­dards team is do­ing to help res­i­dents has my ut­most support.”

Se­nior lec­turer in crim­i­nol­ogy at Bucks New Univer­sity, Dr Elis­a­beth Carter, said: “Scam­mers use mes­sages of trust, se­crecy, ur­gency and le­git­i­macy in very clever ways in or­der to re­as­sure and ma­nip­u­late re­cip­i­ents and tar­get their in­di­vid­ual vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in per­son­alised ways which make it very dif­fi­cult for a re­cip­i­ent to main­tain or­di­nary decision-mak­ing pro­cesses.”

In their cam­paign against the scam­mers Chris and his col­leagues will be of­fer­ing to work with Royal Mail train­ing post­men to iden­tify junk mail signs of scam­ming.

They are also of­fer­ing call block­ing equip­ment to vic­tims of follow-up phone calls.

And they are ap­peal­ing to res­i­dents who al­ready watch out for their vul­ner­a­ble neigh­bours to keep an eye on the lev­els of mail de­liv­ered. Some of the typ­i­cal signs of vic­tim­i­sa­tion are:

Almost al­ways el­derly, of­ten over the age of 80

Of­ten lonely, so­cially iso­lated and re­cent be­reave­ment can be a trig­ger

Un­usu­ally high quan­ti­ties of mail

Se­cre­tive about their mail and fi­nances Liv­ing in clut­ter Hid­ing mail around the house

Denying there is a prob­lem with scams de­spite ev­i­dence to the con­trary

In pos­ses­sion of cheap look­ing goods, prod­ucts in­clud­ing, health prod­ucts and toi­letries, trin­kets, charms and food­stuffs

Re­luc­tance to in­volve fam­ily mem­bers in their sit­u­a­tion

Get­ting through cheque books un­usu­ally quickly

Reg­u­larly vis­it­ing the post of­fice and/or keep­ing lots of stamps.

For fur­ther ad­vice, con­tact the Trad­ing Stan­dards helpline is 03454 040506.

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