Scam busting project in Bradford nominated for national award

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: (7580013) (7580013)

A project that helps elderly people in Bradford protect themselves against doorstep crime and scams has been nominated for a National Lottery award.

West Yorkshire Joint Services' SAFER programme gives older residents the skills and knowledge to spot a fraudster.

Since the project began in November 2012, members of the SAFER team have spoken to more than 1,200 older people at 295 workshop sessions across Bradford and Leeds. The team has also helped 50 older people manage nearly £220,000 of debt.

David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: "We're delighted that the SAFER Project has reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards.

"Lottery money has enabled the project to work very closely with older and more vulnerable residents ensuring that education, ultimately, becomes the prevention.

"The more we educate, the stronger we will become at beating scammers, fraudsters and rogue traders and the most vulnerable people in our community will feel more confident and empowered to protect themselves.

"It’s easy to vote, so we're hoping people support us, as it would be a fantastic reward for everyone involved in the project to receive national recognition for their hard work.”

In one Bradford case, an elderly woman who was in the process of being diagnosed with dementia was receiving about 50 items of scam mail a week.

Officers in SAFER managed to trace some of the mail to a packing house in Wakefield that is now being investigated.

Another case saw a doorstep seller trick a 74-year-old man into buying £200 of shopping vouchers that he could spend in the run-up to Christmas.

The elderly man did not realise he would be paying interest on the vouchers, taking the amount he owed back up to £575.

He was then offered further loans, which he accepted, and left him with monthly repayments of £192. After approaching SAFER, his repayments are down to £10 a month.

The SAFER project also discovered an 84-year-old woman who had sent at least £86,000 to fake lottery companies in countries such as Nigeria, Australia, Canada, Malta, Holland, Poland and the US. She was sending up to £3,500 a time, the project found.

The project also uncovered a case of an 85-year-old scammed on the doorstep for a £3,000 electric reclining chair; an 80-year-old who signed a nine-year credit agreement for a hearing aid; a 95-year-old conned into buying a £3,000 mattress three months after being tricked into buying the same product; an elderly resident sending £50,000 to fraudsters who sent more than 30,000 scam letters; residents signing for £60,000 of unnecessary repairs after rogue traders called every two hours for two days; an elderly man whose life savings were stolen after he gave his bank details over the phone to someone claiming he was due £2,300 in unpaid interest; and a now-bankrupt woman who was referred to a mortgage rescue service after she sent more than £170,000 to a Nigerian 'boyfriend' scam.

To vote for the SAFER project, go to lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards.

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