Hampshire County Council Trading Standards have helped vulnerable residents recoup more than £2 million from scams and mis-sold goods and services.
Since 2009, the service’s Safeguarding Team have helped around 800 Hampshire residents subjected to financial abuse, by preventing payments to criminals, cancelling ongoing subscriptions for unnecessary services or by arranging refunds.
Leader of the County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said: “This is a significant milestone and demonstrates the vital role played by Trading Standards to protect vulnerable Hampshire residents. We know from the Safeguarding Team’s work that scammers and cold callers tend to prey on older members of society, who may be vulnerable and sometimes too trusting. Some victims could have lost tens of thousands to cold callers had Trading Standards not intervened – working together with partner agencies and charities.”
The intervention of the Safeguarding Team prevented one Winchester woman in her 90s, who did not wish to be named, from losing £7,863 to a series of cold callers.
She said: “It started with a phone call from a stranger asking “how’s your health”, and then offering these ‘marvellous pills’. I paid for a few, but after that there were more and more phone calls. They were very friendly, using first names and talking about their families. It was confusing, and the number of pills I was paying for kept building up. I had to throw a lot of it away. I didn’t know what to do.”
Senior Trading Standards Officer, Martin Smith, visited the victim and prevented any further payments for unnecessary vitamins and pills. He also installed a call blocker on her phone, so that unknown callers would hear a voice message from Martin and be referred to a friend of the family to screen illegitimate calls.
The victim added: “The phone calls have stopped completely. I do feel safer and less stressed now. You do believe people when you speak to them on the phone, but this has really opened my eyes.”
Other victims recently helped by the Safeguarding Team include:
A vulnerable older woman from the Havant area, mis-sold an unsuitable kitchen refit beyond her budget. The Safeguarding Team cancelled the contract and associated finance agreement, resulting in savings worth £37,732.
Acting on intelligence from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, officers discovered an older diabetic man from the Aldershot area, who had not eaten for two days – with no food or money in the house. This followed problems with his bank card. The officers arranged an appointment with his GP and delivery of a food parcel from the County Council’s Adults’ Health and Care Team. They solved the man’s bank card problem and took steps to protect him from further scams.
Local residents can also help protect their families, friends and neighbours by becoming a ‘Friend Against Scams’ or a ‘ScamChampion’. For further information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk