New scheme protects vulnerable from scammers

PC Laura Evans.

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An unwelcome consequence of the coronavirus pandemic has been an increase in cases of fraud and attempted fraud in Argyll and Bute.

Realising they are often alone at home under lockdown, criminals are targeting elderly and vulnerable residents through telephone and other scams.

But help is at hand as a new Argyll and Bute support network is introduced.

The Cared for at Home Network has been set up by Dunoon-based PC Laura Evans, who explained: ‘We know that our elderly and vulnerable residents are more vulnerable to being targeted by telephone scams and bogus callers.

‘The Cared for at Home Network allows us to raise awareness throughout vulnerable groups including the elderly who are often not on social media. It is hoped that through sharing information and raising awareness that we can help protect those at greatest risk from this type of crime.’

PC Evans added that while there had been a decrease in some forms of crime since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, within Argyll and Bute the number of frauds being reported to police had almost doubled when compared to the same period last year.

She continued: ‘Younger people are more likely to report being a victim of fraud to police, whereas older people don’t report it due to embarrassment, pride and fear of having their independence taken from them.

‘Research by Age Concern UK has shown that an elderly victim of bogus crime is likely to die or enter full-time residential care within two years of being a victim. This is a very frightening statistic, but shows the massive impact that becoming a victim of crime can have on our elderly residents.’

Telephone scams – for example callers pretending to be from Amazon, BT, a bank or other company – had been declining before the pandemic, but since the first lockdown for Covid-19, PC Evans said: ‘We have seen a startling rise in telephone frauds. This is due to the scammers knowing that people are at home to answer the phone due to lockdown, but also they know many vulnerable people are more socially isolated and less likely to have others at their house to intervene in these calls.’

The aim of the Cared for at Home Network is to be able to alert both paid and unpaid carers, befrienders or someone else with regular contact with elderly or vulnerable people to incidents like this, so that they can let their elderly clients or relatives know about scams that are happening in their area.

In Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands, groups which have signed up so far include the Dochas Centre, Argyll Homecare, The Good Care Group, ALI Energy, Carr Gomm, Citizens Advice Bureau and Argyll Care and Repair.

Peter Minshall, centre manager of the Dochas Carers Centre, which supports paid and unpaid carers throughout Oban, Campbeltown, Kintyre, Islay and Jura, said: ‘The Dochas Carers Centre, along with many other organisations in Argyll which support unpaid carers, welcomes the new Cared for at Home Network being introduced by Police Scotland and views this smart initiative as a practical way we can all work together to ensure a safer, crime-free community.’

The Cared for at Home Network is hosted by Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, a communication system which allows Police Scotland to send out timely, targeted alerts on issues of crime, safety and resilience.

Alerts are sent out to people within the Cared for at Home Network at no cost, by email or text depending on urgency of message and people’s own preference.

If anyone would like to know more about Cared for at Home network, or to become involved, contact PC Laura Evans, local authority liaison officer for Argyll and Bute, by email at laura.evans@scotland.pnn.police.uk.