Scam-busting scheme created by county council recognised at awards

A scam-busting initiative spearheaded by East Sussex County Council has been recognised at an awards ceremony.

The work of the National Trading Standards Scams Team in fighting mass marketing fraud and protecting the most vulnerable people in communities was highly commended in the MJ Achievement Awards.

The team is hosted and founded by the county council and funded by the National Trading Standards Board.

Since 2012 officers have been working to combat mass marketing fraud which costs UK consumers around £3.5 billion every year. Scams are often targeted at vulnerable or disadvantaged consumers, such as those already in debt.

The National Trading Standards Scams Team launched following the discovery of a ‘victim list’ – the details of people who have previously been scammed which is bought and sold by fraudsters. The list contained more than 100,000 names.

Research by East Sussex Trading Standards found a gap in the system that let victims of mass marketing fraud down which led to the development of the team.

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.

In April 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. She had received 285 scam letters in a six-month period.

Councillor Rupert Simmons, the county council’s lead member for economy, said: “The scams team was borne out of a desire by officers to protect the vulnerable. The recognition their work and achievements have received is well-deserved. East Sussex should be very proud of them.” 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.