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Vulnerable Kintyre residents who are most at risk from scammers and rogue traders are being urged to apply for a free call-blocking device in a campaign by Argyll and Bute Trading Standards and Police Scotland.
The telephone scam prevention initiative comes after an increase in the variety of phone scams being reported by Scottish consumers since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Argyll and Bute Community Planning has provided funding to procure a number of trueCall call-blocking devices which are now available, free of charge, to eligible Argyll and Bute residents.
In the past years, devices have been installed at the homes of telephone fraud victims in Ardentinny, Dunoon, Innellan, Helensburgh, Oban and Mull.
Janet, a Dunoon resident, said: ‘This will make my life so much better as I get pestered by calls all the time and I’ve been worried about who is calling me now, as they say they are from my bank and other companies where this is just a lie.’
Previously, Argyll and Bute Trading Standards fitted 75 trueCall call-blockers in the homes of vulnerable people. These devices have blocked an estimated 116,951 calls, of which 23,526 will have been scam phone calls; prevented at least 139 scams; and saved vulnerable households an estimated £492,326 in NHS and health and social care costs.
PC Laura Evans of Argyll and Dunbartonshire Policing Division said: ‘The most common types of scams at the moment are telephone and internet scams whereby the caller or person emailing, pretends to be someone else, for example, someone from your bank, BT, Amazon or Sky.
‘We have a large number of telephone frauds where the caller is told their bank has set up a new account for them and has asked them to transfer their money to this new account. Your bank will never ask you to do this and I would encourage people to simply hang up the telephone if you think you are being scammed or, if you are concerned about someone else receiving scam calls, then consider a call-blocker device.’
The most common calls being blocked by trueCall units are misleading sales of insurance for white goods, appliances or Sky equipment and attempts to sell cover for domestic home repairs.
As more people signed up to streaming services during lockdown, there was an increase in scam calls purportedly from Amazon Prime, where cold callers said that the recipient’s subscription was due for renewal or that their account had been hacked.
Another type of nuisance call which emerged towards the end of 2020 was the sale of timeshares, possibly in response to widespread issues with travel and accommodation during the pandemic.
An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: ‘Scammers are unscrupulous with the sole intention of identifying and exploiting the most vulnerable in our communities by obtaining people’s personal data and to encourage them to give the caller their bank details. This is often achieved by implying that urgent action is required – a tactic which particularly targets elderly and more vulnerable people.
‘The trueCall call-blocking unit can give our residents peace of mind, knowing that if the phone rings it will be someone they want to talk to.
‘If you are being pestered by nuisance calls or you know a family member or friend that could benefit from having a call-blocker, please contact Argyll and Bute Trading Standards on 01546 605 519 or email@example.com to apply for a free device.’