If you’re worried about being conned out of your cash by a telephone, email or online scam, you might want to attend an event at Shaftesbury Library on Tuesday.
Shaftesbury Library Manager Helen Baker told Alfred’s Keri Jones that the library’s computer users often ask her what they should do about suspicious emails. Her team has responded to demand by arranging a ‘Friends Against Scams’ awareness session.
“Our intention is never to scare people. It’s always to help give people the information that they need to help themselves. We identified a need in the community from talking to the people who use the library. Sessions like this have been run in other libraries and people have found them very useful,” Helen explained.
‘Friends Against Scams’ is a National Trading Standards initiative that warns about the range of fraudulent activities created by criminals in order to rip people off. On Tuesday, experts will offer an overview of some of the most common current deceptions.
“We’ll look at all types of scams. They’re going to talk about nuisance telephone calls, about fake emails, doorstep traders – really any of those contact points through which people could become the victim of scams,” said Helen.
The most regular rip-offs are fake lotteries, prize draws and sweep stakes, clairvoyants and computer scams. The criminals often replicate official-looking documents or websites. And the scammers making phone calls can sound highly convincing. The event will help attendees understand how to spot fraudulent approaches.
“I don’t think anyone should ever feel daft about being a victim of a scam,” said Helen. “Scammers, unfortunately, are always looking for opportunities. They’re very clever, and they’re always going to find new ways to try and scam people. Something like 84% of scam approaches primarily come through the internet,” she added.
When the public gets wise to the more common hoaxes, criminals change their methods. Helen says the event organisers are keen to hear from locals who are prepared to share their scam experiences. “The whole point of this is for people to share their story so they can help other people avoid the same problems. These sessions will share experiences and that can help other people.”
Anyone who has been scammed will be asked to become a ‘Scam Marshall’. It simply means that the information that they give could be used in future enforcement work by Trading Standards staff. “They’re going to give a presentation, which lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. It is very informal,” said Helen.
Some attendees may rather discuss their experience or concerns in a private conversation. Helen says attendees will have the chance to chat. “They are going to be here an hour before and after that session. During that time, they are happy to talk to people face-to-face to give advice about how they can help.”
The event organisers will also try to recruit residents who are prepared to take a short training course and become a ‘SCAM Champion’. Those volunteers will be offered an understanding of some of the laws surrounding trading standards. Then, the helpers will be asked to arrange sessions and share advice amongst friends or work colleagues.
“There’s clearly a need. People would like a little bit more information to make them feel more confident,” said Helen.
The main ‘Friends Against Scams’ session talk takes place between 10.30am and 11.30am on Tuesday 23rd July at Shaftesbury Library on Bell Street.