Award for work to protect South Tyneside residents against scammers

From left: Coun Nancy Maxwell, Susan Bell, Fair Trading Officer, and Stuart Wright, Senior Development Services Manager.
From left: Coun Nancy Maxwell, Susan Bell, Fair Trading Officer, and Stuart Wright, Senior Development Services Manager.

Proactive work to protect residents against fraudsters has earned recognition for South Tyneside Council.

The authority's trading standards team has been awarded a ‘Friends Against Scams’ certificate for its work to raise awareness of the issue and prevent people falling victim.

The initiative, which is run by National Trading Standards, encourages organisations to pledge to help combat scams.

The council takes a proactive approach towards the problem, including awareness raising at safeguarding events and community groups and training sessions for GPs and Royal Mail staff.

It has also established 15 No Cold Calling Zones in the brough and installed call blocking devices in residents’ homes.

Coun Nancy Maxwell, lead member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “Fraudsters tend to prey on older or vulnerable people, who can then feel embarrassed or ashamed that they have fallen victim to a scam.

“As a result, just 5% of these types of crime are reported but the effects can be long-lasting and devastating.

“People defrauded in their own homes are more than twice as likely to either die or go into residential care within a year.

“That is a horrifying statistic and we are determined to take a stand against this growing problem. I am really pleased that our work to combat scams and doostep crime has been recognised.”

More than half of people over 65 have been targeted by scams and the council’s trading standards team last year dealt with 144 referrals from the national service.

Residents are advised to follow top tips for dealing with potential scams:

*If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

*Never give out bank details or send money unless you are certain the person in contact can be trusted.

*Contacted out of the blue? Be suspicious.

*Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card, ask for your PIN or come to your home.

*Make sure the website is secure. If buying online, check for the padlock or "https" next to the web address.

*It you haven't bought a ticket you can't win it.

*People shouldn't have to pay anything to get their prize.

*Pressure to make a decision straight away? Take your time and just say: "No thank you".

*Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.

*Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.

*Don't suffer in silence - tell others about scams.

For advice or to report scams to trading standards through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.southtyneside.info/tradingstandards.