New warning to beware of scammers in Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire’s Trading Standards team is warning people to be on their guard against scammers, and asking people to look out for the welfare of elderly relatives, neighbours and friends.
Their warning came on National Safeguarding Day, when Trading Standards teams across the country joined forces to raise awareness of scams.
Here in Carmarthenshire, the team has dealt with thousands of pounds worth of fraud in the last 12 months alone – mostly concerning older people and those vulnerable through ill health.
They include a Burry Port man conned out of £50,000 in bogus lotteries; a St Clear’s woman who lost £4,500 in a series of scam prize draws; an Ammanford man who lost more than £40,000 by buying overpriced vitamin supplements; and a Llanelli man conned out of his life savings worth £75,000 in scams involving diamonds, fine wine and art.
The scams came to light through the national Scams Hub, and also through the Financial Exploitation Safeguarding Scheme (FESS) – a multi-agency scheme established by Carmarthenshire Trading Standards in 2014.
It is the first of its kind in Wales, and works not only to prevent fraud and identify victims but also protects them from further exploitation by putting support in place from social care and housing teams.
All Halifax and Barclays branches in the county are members of the scheme, as are every Citizens Advice Bureau in Carmarthenshire.
Staff have received specialist training to help them recognise the signs of financial abuse, and if they believe one of their customers is a victim, they refer them to Trading Standards for an immediate intervention, which may also involve the police.
Cllr Jim Jones, Executive Board Member for Public Protection at Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “National Safeguarding Day is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of scams, and the kind of tactics fraudsters will use to commit their crimes.
“We are proud that here in Carmarthenshire we are making it more difficult than ever for the scammers by investing Proceeds of Crime Act funds into innovative schemes such as FESS to identify, protect and support victims.”
He added: “If anyone is concerned that they are a victim, or believe that someone they know could be a victim, please act quickly to get advice and support.
“We will work tirelessly to uncover fraudsters and help bring them to justice.”
Take a stand against scams by being aware about how to spot one. Here are some things to look out for:
- Out of the blue phone calls, letters and emails
- Being asked to send money to claim a prize
- Being told of winnings when a competition wasn’t entered
- Too good to be true offers
- Pressure selling
- Uninvited door step callers
- Being asked share your personal details
Carmarthenshire Trading Standards can be contacted on 01267 234567.
Carmarthenshire case studies
The following case studies have been anonymised to protect the identity of the victims.
An elderly Ammanford resident was prevented from sending £14,000 to a bogus lottery in Costa Rica. The resident was promised a £750,000 prize but was required to send the £14,000 in order to obtain certification that the money was entering the country legitimately and wasn’t going to be used to fund terrorism. This was an obvious attempt to take advantage of a vulnerable person and was averted by concerned staff at a branch of Barclays Bank and subsequently referred to Trading Standards and the Police for further investigation.
An elderly Carmarthenshire resident lost over £120,000 to a combination of holiday club, timeshare and boiler room investment scams. The consumer was drawn into a holiday club investment scheme whilst in Spain. On return to the UK the victim was encouraged to invest more heavily in the scheme and the victim’s details were passed to other bogus investment companies in the United States. The investment soon got out of hand and was referred to Trading Standards by the victim’s daughter and was subsequently passed through the intelligence network to the City of London Police and International Counterparts for further investigation.
An elderly Ammanford resident that came to our attention via the National Trading Standards Board Scams Hub was found to have been paying over £600 a month to bogus prize draws and overpriced vitamin supplements with little or no health benefits other than those found at a fraction of the price in any UK High Street Pharmacy. The resident had been doing this since 2009, so it is estimated that he lost around £43,200.
An elderly Carmarthenshire resident was conned out of £90,000 for substandard home improvements. The issue was brought to our attention by concerned staff at a branch of Halifax. The resident was prevented from making a further payment of £30,000 due to the intervention of the bank and subsequent referral to Carmarthenshire Trading Standards. Four suspects were prosecuted and convicted under the Fraud Act 2006 and sentenced to 38 Months 25 Months in prison, with two further suspended sentences of 11 months each.
An elderly resident of Burry Port lost £50,000 over a period of 10 years to bogus lotteries and prize draws. The customer came to the attention of Trading Standards via the National Scams Hub after they carried out a warrant on a Post Office Box and intercepted mail sent by the resident that had cheques made out to the scam organisation attached. We returned these cheques to the resident, installed a nuisance call blocker and continue to support him.
An elderly Llanelli resident parted with his life savings of £75,000 to boiler room scams involving diamonds, fine wine and fine art over a period of two-three years. The resident is in his 70s and is visually impaired. He was brought to our attention by staff at Halifax, Llanelli. The customer was encouraged to discuss these transactions and accept a referral to Trading Standards under the scheme. An officer attended with the victim the same day and the customer has since been brought under the protection of the scheme. The consumer is now in sheltered housing and is being supported by ourselves, social services and housing teams. We have installed a nuisance call blocker and continue to monitor calls to his landline.
An elderly resident of St Clears was duped out of £4,500 after receiving a bogus prize draw notification, initially no money was asked for but the resident then received a letter purporting to be from the United Nations advising they had received notification that £750,000 was being transferred into the UK, but due to counter terrorism measures they needed the customer to validate that the money was not going to be used to fund terrorism before they could permit the money to enter the country. The resident would have to obtain a certificate to this effect which would cost £8,000 - the customer could not afford it but managed to negotiate discount and subsequently withdrew £4,500 from her local bank which she put into a local building society account.