Vulnerable people who have previously fallen victim to scammers have received additional support to stop them being swindled by Covid criminals.
During the recent lockdown, staff from Victim Care and Advice Service (VCAS) contacted 1,000 previous victims of fraud to make sure they didn’t get fooled again.
Previous victims of fraud are more likely to be targeted, as criminals sell on ’sucker lists’ to other criminal organisations.
At the height of the Covid-19 crisis, there were reports of criminals playing on people’s fears by posing as media companies and threatening to cut off access to telephones, internet and television if they didn’t receive immediate payment.
There were also reports of them sending phishing emails claiming to sell PPE such as face masks and hand sanitisers online.
While calls about fraud showed a “significant increase” in the number of people reporting fraud during lockdown, they also revealed the level of hidden need among many of the most vulnerable in the community.
Through this work VCAS, which is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, has come into contact with some of Cleveland’s most vulnerable people including carers, the elderly, the terminally ill and those living alone.
Dave Mead, VCAS Cleveland Manager, said: “Many of the people our staff contacted, felt vulnerable, isolated and afraid. They did not know, who to turn to for help or were convinced they would be a burden if they sought help.
“Many were grateful just to talk to someone – and having a conversation with a member of staff from a trusted organisation allowed them to open up and reveal additional needs.”
As well as providing scam prevention advice, Dave’s team were able to signpost vulnerable people to support with a range of services, from telephone befriending to food banks and home prescription delivery
Dave said: “Anyone, who thinks that things are tough for them but worse for other people, and that they don’t want to cause any problems, should pick up the phone.
“All agencies are there to offer support – and there’s a lot in place right now. There’s no need to suffer in silence.”
Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, said: “Thanks to the brilliant work of VCAS, some of Cleveland’s most vulnerable people have not only been saved from becoming victims of the scammers again but signposted to extra help.”
“Not only has the team gone beyond what would normally be expected of them but they’ve demonstrated the value of working in partnership with other statutory and voluntary agencies.”
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners recognised VCAS’ work in its In Focus publication, as part of the Making a Difference: Protecting the Vulnerable during Covid-19 Restrictions campaign.
If anyone thinks they are being targetted by scammers, please call VCAS on 0303 040 1099
Posted on Tuesday 2nd June 2020