Let’s all fight back at the Scams that ruin people’s lives

A scam is fraud, and fraud is a crime. And these crimes destroy lives.

So let’s change our thinking about scams. They’re not just annoying mailshots or emails that ‘only an idiot would fall for’. They are malicious crimes that create victims, many of whom will never recover.

We all need to be aware of scams and play our part in making sure everyone around us is kept safe.

I attended Scamference 2019 last week, organised by the OPCC for Lincolnshire, the Adult Safeguarding Board Lincolnshire and the Safer Lincolnshire Partnership. It was an eye opener.

The victims

If you ever doubt how much damage a scam can cause to a vulnerable person then please visit the Think Jessica website and find out more https://www.thinkjessica.com. Spend 30 minutes watching the just released documentary about Jessica and scam mail. Jessica received over 30000 pieces of junk mail over a period of five years before she died. People you know could become Jessica, so learn about the impact of this crime.

The message

The word scam has almost lost some of its impact now, so the Police are very keen to make sure we think of this as a crime. A victim of a break in is likely to receive more support than a victim of a scam, so there’s lots of work still to be done.

There are potentially 60+ different types of scam (lottery, romance, holiday, clairvoyant, pensions…) and thousands of variations. Whilst we explored a lot of these at the conference a new approach to educating people and helping them, rather than trying to tell people all about the schemes, is to think about protecting the ‘five ways in’.

So think about protecting the doorstep/front door, the letter box (mail fraud), the telephone, the mobile phone and the internet/computer/tablet. Each needs different thinking, but it’s easier than identifying lots of individual types of scam. And also ‘take five’. Encourage people to step back from a call or mail for five minutes to check it out independently. That gives a breathing space to see if it is a scam or not. Find out all about this approach with the Take Five campaign here https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk.

Report it

ActionFraud is still the best way to report frauds and there’s more information on their website. https://www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Our next steps

We can all help look out for people we know, our family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, service users and more. Clearly some people are far more vulnerable than others (elderly and those with dementia especially), but in reality anyone can become a victim due to ‘situational vulnerability’.

So we can all be a bit better educated and informed. We can share that knowledge with others. We can watch out for signs of scams. We can report scams. We can keep this going to beat the scammers and protect our communities.

Signup up as a Friend against Scams. You can get trained online in 20 minutes and then make your pledge to do something to help fight scams. I did. Find out everything you need to know here https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk.

Local support

If you’re encouraging people to get rid of paper that might be used in identity fraud or to help scammers identify people, then the four community shredders around North East Lincolnshire are the place to get rid of things. Find out more here http://www.nelwatch.org.uk/shredders.

VANEL are supporting our Member organisations with Cyber Security messages. We can run bespoke training to your boards, management team, staff or volunteers. So contact me.

We can provide direct ‘anti-scam’ advice to individuals who live or work in North Cleethorpes. We’re running an IT Lifestyle advice service from the Big Local North Cleethorpes building at 82 Grimsby Road, so you might want to make an appointment for a chat.

We’re continually looking at ways to support our communities with scam and cyber security support, so please get in touch with us.

Contact Karl Elliott, Development Manager at VANEL on 01472 361043 or karl@vanel.org.uk.