Trading Standards under pressure: Are potential scam victims not being warned?

Officials from Trading Standards say teams are struggling to visit suspected scam victims to let them know they are at risk, due to staff shortages.

Details from the BBC reveal at least 86,000 people have been passed across to trading standards departments, however data suggests fewer than a third of them have been visited by officers.

Scams: the facts and figures

Mass marketing scams can come in the form of unsolicited email, letter, phone or adverts which offer false promises to swindle people out of money. These can involve anything from fake lotteries and prize draws to vitamins and bogus nutritional supplements. The National Audit Office has described a typical victim to be 74 years of age, who can lose an estimated £4,500.

Since 2013, 86,556 suspected victims have been referred, but only 30% have been visited by trading standards teams.

An estimated total cost to victims is £3.5bn.

These figures are not surprising. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute revealed that they have seen a cut to the number of the trading standards officers by 53%. With demand high and resources low, the system is straining.

What’s being done?

Since the founding of the National Trading Standards Scams Team in 2012, agreements have been signed with local councils across England. Working with local authorities and corporate organisations, the collaboration makes sure individuals listed on the so-called “suckers lists” are contacted.

The lists, which are put together by trading standards teams from a number of sources, are comprised of repeat victims that frequently respond to scams or have so in the past.

However, reduced resources means the teams have had to resort to contacting victims by post or telephone – an action regarded as “better than no intervention”.

Despite this, the scale of the problem is far from over and the amount of fraud being perpetuated on the elderly is increasing.

Fallen victim to a scam in the past? Or know someone that has? Find out how to stay safe and keep your personal and financial details protected with the Citizens Advice or have a read of our top tips.

And remember, if something seems too good to be true, chances are it’s a con. 

Last updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2017


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