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New Suffolk Trading Standards scheme will help communities to protect the lonely from scams

PUBLISHED: 18:18 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:13 05 December 2017

A graphic made by the national Campaign to End Loneliness, shining a spotlight on loneliness in the UK and the increased susceptibility of older people to scams. Picture: CAMPAIGN TO END LONELINESS

A graphic made by the national Campaign to End Loneliness, shining a spotlight on loneliness in the UK and the increased susceptibility of older people to scams. Picture: CAMPAIGN TO END LONELINESS

Archant

Lonely people are four times more likely to be victims of a scam, Suffolk trading standards chiefs have warned as they launch a new campaign calling on communities to do their bit.

Julie Fletcher with her grandmother. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Julie Fletcher with her grandmother. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In the run up to Christmas, teams will be shining a spotlight on charities already working to support those who are more isolated, particularly older people, in a bid to raise awareness of the link between loneliness and the risk of falling victim to a scam.

It is hoped interest in this initiative, which also calls on everyone in Suffolk to think of ways they can help in their communities, will drum up support for a bigger campaign due to launch in January, Friends Against Scams.

Trading standards community engagement officer Sasha Watson said: “This is an initiative we are running to try and highlight the dangers that are faced by people, mostly elderly, who are lonely.

“The average age of a scam victim is 74, and in Suffolk we have an ageing population, large areas are rural and isolated.

Sasha Watson, community engagement officer at Suffolk Trading Standards. Picture: SUFFOLK TRADING STANDARDS Sasha Watson, community engagement officer at Suffolk Trading Standards. Picture: SUFFOLK TRADING STANDARDS

“National research done in the past has shown that of all the doorstep crimes reported in 2014-15, 57% of those reports were people who lived on their own.

“They are more susceptible to things like doorstep scams, mail scams, mobile phone scams but are also less likely to report it.

“They’re often embarrassed and ashamed because they have fallen for the scam.

“Sometimes they might even befriend a scammer because it’s someone to talk to, they are duped by them.”

Suffolk Trading Standards are running a new initiative calling on people to do their bit to protect lonely people from scams. Stock image. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO Suffolk Trading Standards are running a new initiative calling on people to do their bit to protect lonely people from scams. Stock image. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

The work of projects such as Rural Coffee Caravan, Men’s Shed, Good Gym and Age UK is to be highlighted by the campaign, most of which is to be promoted using the team’s social media channels.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, Matthew Hicks, said: “Suffolk Trading Standards is calling on the residents of Suffolk to think of ways they may be able to reach out to someone who might be lonely.

“Lonely people are four times more likely to fall victim to scams and the loneliness of some victims can be exacerbated by feelings of shame and embarrassment once they have become victims.

“This may be part of the reason why scamming is an under-reported crime.

“Nationally, it is estimated victims of scams lose between £5 to £10billion every year, with an average age of a victim being 75.

He added: “The number of people over 65 living on their own in England is projected to increase to 4.97million in 2030 so unless we try to make a concerted effort to tackle loneliness, more people could be at risk of being scammed – which is detrimental to their health and wellbeing, as well as the economy.”

It will be followed by the launch of Friends Against Scams in January, a scheme similar to the dementia friends initiative which encourages people to sign up and become a friend while recognising risk factors. Bosses hope to have 500 people sign up next year.

Julie Fletcher, whose 96-year-old grandmother Mrs S was conned out of £30,000 by responding to scam mail, said both schemes have her full backing.

The Ipswich resident spoke to this newspaper earlier in the year, warning other families to stay vigilant.

She added: “I would give these schemes my full support, it’s a brilliant idea and will hopefully go a long way towards helping families like ours.

“More needs to be done and it’s great people are listening and helping.”

• Anyone who wants advice about scams or fears that they or a family member has fallen victim to one can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

Become a Suffolk Trading Standards Consumer Champion by visiting their website.

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