Helping to protect vulnerable adults from online fraud

Some of the individuals and community group representatives who tuned in to the online fraud prevention event.
Some of the individuals and community group representatives who tuned in to the online fraud prevention event.

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Shopper-Aide is one of more than 50 community groups, organisations and individuals caring for vulnerable adults that are now better informed at preventing clients from becoming victims of fraud.

Representatives from the Kintyre charity, as well as those from Carr Gomm, ACUMEN, Alzheimer Scotland, Age Scotland, Family Mediation Services, Carers of West Dunbartonshire and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, tuned in to an online fraud prevention event last Tuesday (May 18).

Created and hosted by Argyll and Bute Third Sector Interface (TSI), supported by West Dunbartonshire Community and Volunteering Services (CVS), the online session was arranged as a result of increasing incidents of fraud reported to police in 2020-21.

The most significant increase has been around online credit card fraud, marketplace fraud and social engineering fraud, where someone pretends to be someone they are not to access people’s money.

Opening the event, Samantha Stubbs, strategic development manager for Argyll and Bute TSI, said: ‘We know the integral role that third sector organisations play in our communities and, for us, it makes perfect sense to ensure that they are linked in to as much prevention work as possible.

‘With their staff being trusted and well-known faces in communities, they are vital to ensuring the right information is shared with people at the right time.’

Speakers at the event included representatives from Nationwide Building Society, Police Scotland’s community engagement team and Argyll and Bute Trading Standards.

Joanna Peet, Nationwide Building Society branch manager, revealed that £455.8 million was lost in 2019 in the UK to what the financial institution calls ‘authorised push payment scams’. This is where people are scammed into sending their money directly to a criminal.

Other scams include ‘romance scams’ where fraudsters build an online relationship with people to gain their trust before asking them for money for things like medical fees and travel expenses.

Joanna discussed the banking protocol which stopped £43.5 million of fraud and led to 200 arrests in 2020.

She said: ‘This is where any bank or building society staff member who becomes aware of anything suspicious or untoward contacts police for an immediate response.

‘Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the banking protocol has been enhanced to cover telephone and online banking as well.’

Matthew Corns from Argyll and Bute Trading Standards spoke of the financial impact that frauds can have on the economy and highlighted the wellbeing effect that becoming a scam victim can have on anyone, but especially vulnerable members of the community.

The worrying statistic that people are more likely to die or enter residential care after becoming a scam victim proved particularly thought-provoking for those in attendance.

Mr Corns added that people can become a ‘friend against scams’ by taking part in a free online Trading Standards course.

Sergeant Marcus Littlejohn from Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Police Division provided advice and guidance including tips such as dialling 123 after receiving a call from a scam caller to ensure the line has been cleared.

Often criminals will keep the call running so that when people call their bank afterwards, the scammer can pretend to be this service as well.

Sergeant Littlejohn also spoke about password security sites such as www.howsecureismypassword.net and how to check if password and security details have been compromised through the website www.haveibeenpwned.com

Chief Inspector Emma Grimason, local area commander, added: ‘Fraudsters are adapting every day and new types of fraud appear on a regular basis.

‘It is therefore incumbent on us all to keep ourselves informed about the current scams and always be vigilant on how to prevent yourself and those you care for becoming a victim.

‘You can do this by signing up to Neighbourhood Watch Scotland which sends out alerts for where you live and work which are instigated by either Police Scotland or Trading Standards.

‘You can join up by visiting https://member-registration.neighbourhoodalert.co.uk/91/Join and you can also follow us on social media where we provide regular details of new fraud trends and crime prevention advise.

‘We are on Facebook at ‘Argyll Dunbartonshire Police Division’ and have local twitter pages as well.’