• Sat. May 25th, 2024

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Warning Sounded Over Spate of Fake Officials Cases

middlesbrough-moving-forwardPEOPLE in Middlesbrough are being urged to guard themselves against fake officials after an elderly couple lost £900,000 in a scam – involving a bogus trading standards officer.

The pensioners, who had already been fleeced for £300,000 by cowboy roofers, believed their fortunes had changed when the bogus official came calling.

However, the crook, thought to be part of the same gang, tricked them out of a further £600,000 in ‘up-front fees’ with promises to recover the money.

Gary Andrew Booker, 55, of Surrey, was jailed for three and a half years for his part in the crime earlier in Scams Awareness Month, which runs throughout July.

Other recent cases include: an 83-year- old woman who was taken for £30,000 by fake police officers; a women who lost £170,000 to conmen posing as trading standards officers; and a number of elderly people who were caught out by crooks who pretended they were NHS workers.

Organisers of Scams Awareness Month, Citizens Advice and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), are citing such cases as a warning to others.

And in Middlesbrough the town’s Trading Standards department is calling on people to be on their guard against an increasingly prevalent menace.

Councillor Mick Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Communities and Public Health, said: “Trading Standards play a vital role in upholding and safeguarding consumer rights, so it is deeply concerning that their good work should be subverted in this way.

“Trading Standards officers – in common with all public officials – will never ask for money from the public, let alone a victim, to help bring a criminal to justice.

“The growth in general of scams, including rogue doorstep traders, and mass marketing scams by telephone, internet and mailing lists aimed at financially vulnerable citizens is a matter of great concern.

“Ways to improve consumer knowledge and prevent such crimes are being looked at by a number of agencies and we are keen to do everything possible to protect Middlesbrough residents.”

CTSI Chief Executive Leon Livermore said: “All too often criminals pose as charity workers, trading standards officers, government officials and even the police, to gain people’s trust.

“But if a genuine person comes to your door they will be only too happy to wait while you check their identification, or if you tell them to come back another time because you are unsure.”

The campaign is also urging people to follow a simple three-step rule to guard themselves against scams – get advice, report it, and tell others about it.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Scammers target people in all sorts of ways, including online, over the phone or even at their own front door.

“If you suspect someone is running a scam or are worried you have been a victim of a bogus offer you can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service.”

Advice to guard against doorstep callers:

 Fit and use a door security chain when you open the door

 Check the identification of a caller by ringing their employer. Use the telephone number from your telephone book and not one they might supply

 Do not let anyone to carry out work on your house until you get a second opinion and never agree to callers who say “we are only in the area today”

 Never keep large sums of money in the house and keep purses out of sight, not near the door

 Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service 03454 04 05 06 who can provide advice and pass details on to trading standards

Report scams or suspected scams to Action Fraud or 0300 123 2040 www.actionfraud.police.uk and tell friends, neighbours and relative about any scams you become aware of.

By admin