Agenda item

Foil the Fraudsters

Find out how to spot a scam and what to do if you are approached by suspicious characters.


Hampshire Constabulary will attend to offer advice and answer questions as part of Operation Signature, a nation-wide campaign to tackle fraud.


Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate in the discussion.


The Chairman introduced Ryan Gulliver, EHDC Community Safety Manager and Jo Utting, Community Safety Officer, who outlined the work of the Community Safety Team.  Community Safety had been born out of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which placed a duty on local authorities to liaise with the Police and other partners to reduce crime and Anti-Social Behaviour.  The team focussed on concentrated preventative measures to stop Anti-Social Behaviour from occurring along with working with partners to ensure that vulnerability was addressed and the supporting of families was at the heart of its core work.


The team co-ordinated Community Tactical and Co-ordinating Group (CTCG) meetings across the district which problem-solved local issues with partners and community representatives.  The team had also been accredited to deliver counter-terrorism training as part of the Government’s ‘Prevent’ agenda and organised annual ‘Thinksafe’ events for all children in the area in their last year of junior school.  These events were delivered in collaboration with the Police, RNLI and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and delivered important messages to children about how to remain safe.


The Chairman introduced Sergeant Tripp and PCSO’s Ellis Parish and John Payne from the Longmoor Neighbourhood Policing Team, who gave a presentation on identifying and tackling fraud.


There were three national initiatives around fraud prevention, Operation Liberal, Operation Cicero and Operation Signature.


Operation Liberal focussed on distraction burglary and rogue trading.  Whilst distraction burglary was quite rare in East Hampshire, residents were encouraged to be aware and take measures such as ensuring that the back door of their house was locked whilst answering the front door to strangers.  The Bobby Scheme offered a free home security check for the vulnerable and elderly and could fit door chains, additional door and window locks, smoke detectors and spyholes free of charge.


There were more reports of rogue traders in the area, particularly passing workmen who offered to carry out work.  Often this work was not needed and if employed, they would often overcharge for poor quality work or insist upon payment up front for work that would then not be completed.  Residents were advised to never employ passing workmen.  If work was required, then quotes from reputable businesses should be obtained.  Trading Standards produced a directory of approved local businesses that could be obtained free of charge.


Operation Cicero related to courier fraud, which was on the increase. People targeted would receive a telephone call claiming to be either from their bank or the Police to warn them of suspicious activity with their bank account.  The caller would encourage the person to withdraw money from their account and arrange for it and/or their bank card to be collected by a courier.  PCSO Parish advised that a bank or the Police would never request this.


Operation Signature related to postal, telephone and email scams.  The best advice that could be given was that if something seemed too good to be true, then it most likely was and should be ignored.  ‘Scammers lists’ existed, which contained the details of those who had been successfully duped.  These individuals would then be targeted for further scams.


If an email was received relating to money or bank accounts, PCSO Parish advised never to click on any link that was provided and instead log in via the main website.  If an individual had passed their bank details over, then they should contact their bank as soon as possible so that a block could be put on their account and the Police contacted via 101.


In response to questions it was confirmed that divulging a bank account number and sort code alone could not be used to extract money from an account and that if a case was passed to Action Fraud, the individual concerned would only receive a response if progress was made in identifying the fraudster. Contact would normally be made by the Police.


The Police produced media releases when fraudsters were convicted, but the media were often more interested when an offence had happened rather than when a successful conviction had been made.  Neighbourhood Watch groups were also kept updated on convictions.