A community-based scheme has been launched in Central Bedfordshire to tackle what council bosses say is a “spiralling number of scams and cons” throughout the area.
Friends Against Scams is coordinated by the National Trading Standards Scams Team, and gives people the tools they need to recognise scams and to take steps to make a difference.
The first stage is to take a free, 20-minute online training session, or attend a presentation. These raise awareness of the common types out there, the skills to avoid them, and the confidence to spread the word to friends, neighbours and loved ones.
Once equipped ‘friends’ are encouraged to take a stand. They can even then choose to carry on gaining more knowledge and act as a neighbourhood SCAMchampion prepared to give talks in public or simply share their new knowledge with friends and family.
After the session, people will be asked to make a simple pledge to help take a stand against scams. This could involve telling five other people about the scheme; talking to family, friends and neighbours about scams, or sharing their Friends Against Scams status on social media.
Cllr Ian Dalgarno, executive member for community services at Central Beds Council, said: “Friends Against Scams is open to anyone who wants to protect themselves or their loved ones against scams.
“Unfortunately, anyone can become a victim, and the effects can be financially devastating and often damaging to a person’s health and wellbeing.
“Scams can come in various forms by letter, telephone, email or even in person, making false promises or claims to con victims out of their money. Some of the most common scams are fake lotteries, prize draws, clairvoyants, investment scams, and romance scams.
“Scammers will attempt to trick people with official-looking documents or websites, or with convincing telephone sales patter, with the aim of persuading them into sending money or providing personal or bank account details.
“Scammers are clever and convincing and can ruin people’s lives. Victims can lose money, peace of mind and often experience loneliness, shame and social isolation. Many also feel too embarrassed to report a scam – but they should not feel embarrassed as it can happen to anyone.”
To find out more and to play a part in helping people avoid becoming a victim of scams, visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk