Don't become one of 800 victims of scams in West Sussex this year
Advice and help to spot a potential con is available during Scams Awareness Month in July
Not only does the victim lose hundreds, often thousands of pounds, they can be left feeling vulnerable and scared in their own home.
Scams come in many forms – from bogus workmen knocking on the door, to email frauds and cold calling thieves – and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not only the elderly who are preyed on.
An estimated 3.6 million scams and fraud cases have occurred across the UK this year – and West Sussex is no exception.
More than 800 cases of actual and attempted scams have been reported to West Sussex Trading Standards since July 1, 2016, West Sussex County Council said.
This came at a cost of £383,000 to residents.
In that period, an additional 125 doorstep incidents saw residents scammed out of a further £85,000.
Throughout the whole of July, it is Scams Awareness Month, a national campaign set up to raise awareness and help reduce the impact of scams through the provision of advice and support.
Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice is working in partnership with West Sussex Trading Standards to try to stop people of all ages being conned out of their cash.
It is being supported by a huge range of bodies, including Sussex Police, both Chichester and Arun district Councils and West Sussex County Council.
Carol Groves, chief executive of Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice, said: “Scams unfortunately are with us throughout the year and we need to stay alert.
“Criminals try and exploit us all whether by cold calling at the front door, through the telephone, by text, on the internet or social media.”
This year, four main themes have been identified:
The ‘life established’ (week one, Monday, July 3)
‘Young people’ (week two, Monday, July 10)
‘The socially isolated’ (week three, Monday, July 17)
‘Over 70s’ (week 4, Monday, July 24)
Last Wednesday an awareness event took place at Tesco in Shripney Road, Bognor Regis, with another planned at Sainsbury’s in Rustington Retail Park on Tuesday.
Mrs Groves said: “At Citizens Advice, here in Arun and Chichester, we support clients every week who have either been exploited or are in fear of being exploited because of some uninvited approach by a potential criminal.
“This year we have supported over 50 clients ranging in age from 22 to 92-year-old. This scourge can affect any of us.”
Mrs Groves said the most current scam, targeted specifically at young people, is based on an offer of a loan being made. The only way to get access to the loan is to first pay for ‘itune’ or similar vouchers and hand the serial numbers of these vouchers to the scammer.
“We have heard about this scam many times but it is important to keep reminding people not to agree to purchase anything from someone who cold calls at your front door,” Mrs Groves warned.
“This type of scam is virulent with our older or possibly more isolated clients.”
Citizens Advice is advising consumers that they should look carefully at any offer and buy from a reputable source, especially when taking out a loan.
In May, Sussex Police reported that a phone scam saw an 85-year-old woman, who lives near Chichester, hand over £12,500.
The victim received a call from a man claiming to be from the Metropolitan Police fraud squad.
He told her that her bank card had been copied and she needed to withdraw £5,000.
She went to her bank, withdrew the cash and handed it to a courier who arrived at her house during the afternoon.
The man then phoned her back on Friday and asked her to withdraw £7,500 and again hand it to a courier, which she did.
When she received a third call, she felt suspicious and told a friend, who reported it to police.
Detective sergeant Graham Leaney said at the time: “We want to raise awareness of this scam and would urge people to be vigilant. The police would never make calls like this and would never ask for you to withdraw money from an account. Under no circumstances should you withdraw money and hand it over to a courier, if you do receive a call like this, please report it immediately.”
Bogus workmen knocking at people’s doors pointing to apparent repairs that don’t in fact need doing is an old aged scam that elderly people in particular are trapped by.
The second week of the campaign will focus on under 25s, who are being increasingly targeted by scams, yet are found less likely to report them.
Tech-savvy young people are at particular risk of online and identity fraud in their complacency using the internet, leading to their growing vulnerability.
West Sussex County Council cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, Debbie Kennard said: “It is vital that we as a county take it upon ourselves to be vigilant of scam activity and act at the earliest opportunity.
“Too many residents have fallen victims to scammers in the past year alone, we must do more to educate ourselves and look out for vulnerable family and friends.
“I urge all residents who suspect they may have been targeted to drop-in to one of our community events and put their questions to the team.”
Arun District council will be supporting Scams Awareness Month and sharing information on social media.
A spokesman said: “We are vigilant of scams all year round and take steps to inform the public as necessary.
“There are some useful tips that we share with people and would reiterate these during Scams Awareness Month:
“If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
“Check ID – if you are still unsure contact the company to verify. If you wish to support a charity, why not make contact yourself rather than responding to a door step caller.
“If someone is representing or purporting to represent a charity your local council will be able to confirm if they have permission to collect money or goods from you.”
Anyone concerned about scams can get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.
Alternatively, people can call in to one of the advice centres in Bognor Regis, Chichester or Littlehampton.
To report an incident or concern direct to West Sussex Trading Standards, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport.