Council urges people to stay alert to phone scams after vulnerable woman conned in Dunstable

Central Bedfordshire is warning people to be wary of telephone scams after a vulnerable resident from Dunstable was conned into handing over large sums of money last year.

The resident, who has learning difficulties and lives on her own, had been unable to recognise that financial abuse was taking place until it was too late.

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One caller on an international number befriended her and managed to convince her that they were a distant relative.

This caller made regular, almost daily calls, with promises of a ‘reunion’ holiday together and regularly asked the victim to send money to pay for flight tickets, hotels and visas.

On average, she received 12 scam calls every day, and on some days over 25 calls. Concerned by the volume of calls the victim enlisted the help of Central Bedfordshire’s Trading Standards Team.

After speaking to the council officers, she agreed to let them install a call-blocking device to help reduce the volume of unwanted calls she was receiving. Over the following months the device successfully prevented up to 90% of all nuisance and scam calls, helping to protect her from further financial abuse.

Scam Awareness month runs from June 10 to June 23, if you have concerns about a suspected scam contact the council’s Trading Standards Team on 03454 040506.

Speaking of the Citizens Advice Scam Awareness campaign, which launched on Monday, Councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “The people committing these types of fraud are persistent, calling their victims a number of times a day using different phone numbers.

“They are very persuasive and will often hold some of the victim’s personal information which helps make them appear to be genuine.

“These fraudsters target the most vulnerable members of our communities in order to scam them out of large sums of money, and we ask that people remain vigilant and call us if they have any concerns.

“We would advise residents not to agree to any work following an unsolicited visit or call by a trader, or to feel pressured or intimidated to send money to unknown callers on any basis.”

Over the last year Central Bedfordshire Council Trading Standards Officers have advised and supported nearly 200 residents who have been referred to them after falling victim to a suspected scam.

The types of cons ranged from telephone scams, mail order/catalogue scams, prize draws, bogus clairvoyants and doorstep callers.