Investigation saves £1 million from getting into hands of scammers

The loss of over £1 million, that would have been heading its way to scammers and fraudsters, has been prevented by work officers from West Yorkshire Trading Standards has been involved in with vulnerable consumers and victims of scams.

The West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team (WYFEAT), a task force part funded by the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, identified victims after the fraudster’s so called ‘suckers lists’ were intercepted.

These lists contain names and addresses of vulnerable residents across the country and are used by scammers to systematically target them.

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Over 5,000 West Yorkshire residents are included on the list.

Officers have worked on a one to one basis with scam victims to give guidance, care and support.

Advice is given to victims on the specific scam mail they have received, how to spot the signs of scams and how to reduce unwanted phone calls and letters, to prevent them falling victim in the future.

As a result, many victims have stopped responding to scams and have saved over £1 million.

Linda Davis, Head of the WYFEAT task force, said: “Many scam victims we meet feel lonely or isolated, and initially they respond to the scam mail for company. This quickly escalates into them being inundated with masses of scam mail repeatedly asking for money, and very often the fraudster then moves on to harassing them by telephone. The team works with victims and potential victims to help them say ‘No’, and often, once they stop responding, over a short period of time, the scam mail stops.”

Scams are operated by criminals with the sole purpose of identifying and exploiting often vulnerable, elderly and mentally impaired people. The average victim is 74 and loses about £1,000 to scams but some have lost their homes, their life savings and many thousands of pounds.

The types of scams encountered in West Yorkshire include a 70 year old who lost £200,000 after responding to scam mail for 16 years and an 85 year old who lost £20,000 to clairvoyant and prize draw scams.

Trading Standards has helped victims install call blockers, to register with the telephone, mail and charity preference services and to forward recent scam mail received as part of a Mail Marshall scheme.

In addition to working with victims on a one to one basis, officers have also trained 2300 frontline professionals on spotting and stopping scams and are working with universities on the psychology of scams, researching behaviour changes to develop ideas around prevention and early intervention.

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who is also a SCAMbassador said: “Scams cause real damage both financially and emotionally so it is with great pride that I have been able to contribute joint sustained funding to help enable the WYFEAT to be created in continuing this pioneering project. They have done some absolutely fantastic work in a relatively short amount of time and demonstrates the positive impact of collaborative working. £1million saved is a very impressive milestone and I would like to thank the whole team for their passion and dedication in tackling fraudsters and helping to keep people and our communities safe.”

To report scams, fraud or unfair sales tactics contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.