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How Friends Against Scams is tackling fraud

As Scams Awareness Fortnight continues, Nikki Pasek MBE explains how National Trading Standards is empowering people to take a stand against scams.

This is a guest post by Nikki Pasek MBE. All views expressed are Nikki’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

As the National Trading Standards Scams Team sees on a daily basis, criminal scams can cause significant damage to our society.

The people who are targeted are often in the most vulnerable circumstances and the impact on their lives is devastating – from large financial losses, to severe emotional damage which leaves victims feeling intimidated, scared and afraid to be in their home.

The fact that criminals will take advantage of any situation in order to try and scam innocent people saddens me deeply, although it doesn’t surprise me having spent my career in Trading Standards working to protect and support local communities.

The recent increase in scams during COVID-19 serves as a sad reminder about how far these criminals will go. They will truly take any opportunity to prey on vulnerable people, especially those who are socially isolated and living alone.

Community spirit

In contrast, it has been heart-warming to see the community spirit that has been re-invigorated across the UK over the last few months. 

People have been helping their family, friends and neighbours as well as making sure that everyone in their community has the support they need. 

The power of community spirit and taking time to look out for each other is vital for scam prevention and scam victim support work. 

A scam victim cannot always see the impact that a scam is having on their life, so it can be easier for someone close to them to spot it, especially if they’ve been trained to know what signs to look for

What is Friends Against Scams?

The main aim of the National Trading Standards Scams Team’s Friends Against Scams initiative is simple – to reduce the number of people falling victim to criminal scams.

Our ‘Friends’ training helps people to spot a potential scam, identify people at risk and help protect friends, family and neighbours. 

When the team created Friends Against Scams, it was our aim to create a social movement against scams, so an aspirational target was set – to get one million people to take our Friends Against Scams training.  

The team knew that if this target could be achieved, it would help to truly bring about the long-term change to scams prevention that was needed to protect the vulnerable people in our communities.

This change would only happen if we could encourage businesses, the public sector, voluntary organisations and local communities to join forces with us to all ‘Take a Stand Against Scams’.

It has been amazing to see our partners, local trading standards and other supporters rising to the challenge.

They have helped us to achieve a big step towards our target and the team are thrilled to announce that, during Scams Awareness Fortnight, this combined effort has helped us to get halfway towards our target – 500,000 ‘Friends’ have completed our training.

Continuing the momentum

That’s 500,000 people who now understand the different types of scams, know how to spot the signs and can actively work to protect their family, friends and neighbours. 

These ‘Friends’ also know how to proactively help someone if they do fall victim to a scam.

Whilst this is an amazing achievement for everyone involved in the initiative, it is vital that our work continues to move forward.

The rise in scams during this pandemic is a solemn reminder that scams awareness and prevention is just as important as ever.

After reading this article, my hope is that you realise the important role that you can have in helping to protect yourself and others from scams.  

Please visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/ and take 20 minutes out of your day to complete our training to protect yourselves and the people that you care about.  

Be a good ‘Friend’, help to protect your family, friends and neighbours from scams. Read it, Share it. Prevent it.

This was a guest post by Nikki Pasek MBE. All views expressed were Nikki’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

Comments

Scams are perpetrated because they are financially rewarding and safe from detection. While it is good to try and protect those who might get sucked into one, this is only one strand of any attack on the scammers. They simply have to be caught in enough numbers to make it less attractive. The third strand is to pick these scams up very early on and disrupt them. Only an organised system can do these things, but the friends scheme could be part of that, and report on its work to the rest of the team. To follow the scam and destroy it.

Still no edit facility in place Which?

David Whiting says:
22 June 2020

All of the time we see Fraudsters get a slap on the wrist and punitive jail time given out by the courts

We must make Fraud none-profitable to those that cause it If you do crime – you pay for it

We need to do more of what we know works well, such as the sharing of information to prevent fraud, and we need to find new approaches to new threats such as those posed by the increased use of, and dependence on, technology.

Most of all, we need to do this together.

Hi Nikki – All efforts to tackle scams are very welcome but my concern with National Trading Standards is that there seems to be no opportunity for the public to make any direct input. When I have contacted NTS (about a national rather than local problem) the reply was that we are a company and we don’t deal with the public, and that I should contact Citizens Advice.

I see Citizens Advice is mentioned as a source of advice on scams. I believe that it would be more effective if there was an opportunity for the public to contact the NTS scams team directly because they are should be better placed than a local Citizens Advice office to offer advice and support over the specific problem of scams, which are a national problem.

Nothing to do with scams but, as well as yourselves, many local trading standards refuse to deal with individuals and refer us to CA. When I asked CA whether they logged and followed up complaints, whether they published aggregated compIaints, I was told “no”. I regard that sort of black hole approach as a waste of time.

I do hope at some time we recognise the value of Trading Standards and properly resource them.

Thanks for your reply Nikki. I’m sorry that I don’t agree. Scams are a national problem and my view is that they should be handled by a single national organisation.

I feel the same way about the large number of problems that local CA offices have had to deal with regarding problems with Whirlpool dryers and washing machines after being let down over recalls. Surely it would be better that cases were referred directly to a single organisation.

HM says:
25 June 2020

Some platforms take responsibility for scams, others don’t and should.

Facebook Marketplace take no responsibility or interest in stopping scammers using their facility. They should be obliged to take fuller details of people advertising goods for sale so that they can take action when goods aren’t delivered.

Marilyn says:
25 June 2020

It’s so very sad, but, until someone or department in our Government makes seriously strict laws these criminal scammers will get more and more ‘imaginative’ and, unfortunately, nothing is happening at the moment to stop them. No area is our lives these days is ever going to be free from these despicable criminal scammers until someone does something about them. and that has to come from somebody with ‘clout’ Sadly nobody seems to be doing anything right now that actually works to stop the wide variety of scams that are around so, the scammers will just keep going and thoroughly enjoying all their ill-gotten and go on and on and on getting more disgusting and viscous and despicable.

Ramesh Kapoor says:
26 June 2020

The biggest Scam is when a well-dressed person knocks on the door and says that there are some loose tiles on the back of your house.
Can I come in and show you? I refused and told him that my brother is a builder and he will have a look.
I told him he can’t come in as he is lying because no one sees my roof because of a big apple tree. So off he went.
What I found interesting is that it’s always the back of the house and not the front.

Chris Nash says:
9 July 2020

I have just received a scam phone call, purporting to be from the “Income Tax Office” (not HMRC), advising me that I am somehow involved in a an Income Tax fraud and asking me to key 1, to get further information. I didn’t key 1, or say anything. Apart from the fact that I retired many years ago and have no income tax issues, a couple of real giveaways were using the name “Income Tax Office”, instead of HMRC and the use of a voice type and style of speaking which I last heard on BBC news reports in the 1950’s. The scammers obviously believe this voice lends credence to their actions – it doesn’t. I have reported the facts and the Liverpool telephone number to Trading Standards. I daresay the number will be closed down fairly promptly by the scammers, but it might assist investigations of Trading Standards.

Tony Edwards says:
27 July 2020

Keep it simple, never click on a link or give details over the phone or by email. Go to the website log in before any communication

George says:
4 September 2020

Hi, I had a scam text this morning, stated the payment you attempted to make to Kendrick Mabouti has been blocked, to resolve this click on http etc address given to release the payment. The clue it was a scam was in the name of recipient plus the phone number was false I also called my bank to report this scam.

George