A PIONEERING county council-based service aimed at combating fraudsters has saved potential victims across Britain more than £1 million.
The work of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, hosted by East Sussex Trading Standards, is being highlighted as part of Scams Awareness Month, which runs throughout May.
The team was set up in 2012 to identify potential victims of mail, telephone and email fraud, who are referred to their local Trading Standards team for help and support.
A total of 119 local authorities across the country are signed up to the scheme, which has so far identified 1,265 confirmed victims and £4.3 million of money lost to fraudsters, and saved victims £1.3 million by intervening before people have handed over cash. Across Sussex, the team has identified 284 confirmed scam victims who have lost £1.1 million to scams, which can include fake lotteries, fraudulent lenders and charity scams.
Last month the Observer reported on how an 82-year-old woman from St Leonards was duped out of £1,500 through scam mail. The victim contacted Sussex Police after hearing about Operation Signature, which encourages residents not to respond to scam letters. Police community support officer Nigel Ball visited her and discovered she had received 285 scam letters in a six-month period.
Cllr Rupert Simmons, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) lead member for economy, said: “People who perpetrate this kind of fraud prey on the vulnerable, damage consumer confidence and blight the lives of victims and their families. I’m immensely proud that here in East Sussex we’re leading the way on a scheme which is making a real difference in combating this problem and helping victims.”
The National Trading Standards Scams Team, funded by the National Trading Standards Board, aims to gather intelligence on scams and raise public awareness of the damage they cause, to educate victims and potential victims and prevent more people falling prey to scams.
Anyone who thinks they may have become a victim of mail, telephone or email fraud should ring the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 040506.