West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Mark Burns-Williamson has joined forces with West Yorkshire Trading Standards to create a task force to help tackle financial exploitation and abuse through scams, frauds and doorstep crime.
The West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team is made up of co-located specialists from West Yorkshire Police, adult social care and Trading Standards and will enhance collaborative working across a range of partners, with a focus on investigating financial exploitation and abuse of vulnerable and older victims.
The team will be looking to tackle scams and frauds from third party offenders such as doorstep criminals, mass marketing frauds by phone, post and electronic channels, and wider financial abuse of vulnerable people including that committed by family members or carers.
Nationally there are an estimated 170,000 doorstep crime incidents, with only 5% being reported, and 2.5 million people fall victim to scams each year.
Recent cases of financial exploitation in West Yorkshire include an 83-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer from Leeds who lost their £786,000 life savings to mass marketing fraud and an 84 year old from Wakefield who lost £164,000 to doorstep criminals.
The team have been operational since October 2016 and so far are working on a number of cases including an investigation into a crime group operating across the North of England, selling shoddy double glazing services and also targeting older members of the community and charging exorbitant prices.
The task force were also involved in securing convictions against Robert Morrison and Paul Towers, who were targeting elderly and vulnerable residents for sub-standard driveways. Offences committed by the pair included entering into a contract with a 94 year old man who had a significant visual impairment and was unable to read his contract, entering into a contract with an 84 year old lady with Alzheimer’s and failing to refund deposits. Both were sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison at Leeds Crown Court last week.
The team is being part funded by West Yorkshire’s PCC with £109,000 from money set aside for partnership working.
Mark Burns-Williamson said “The awful consequences of targeting people for financial exploitation and crime is all too clear and it’s particularly important that we protect and support those that are most vulnerable, which is a key priority in my new Police and Crime Plan.
“Crimes such as these can have a really detrimental effect on the victim and their quality of life going forward. This team will protect people from these heartless criminals, help to bring the perpetrators to justice, fully support victims and reduce repeat victimisation.
“I was pleased to be able to contribute to task force’s creation and we can see that they are already making a real difference in our communities.”
David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said “Having a co-located task force is already making a difference to victims in West Yorkshire. We are able to better support those most at risk and are tackling criminals who exploit the vulnerable. I would urge anyone who believes they may be a victim of rogue traders or scams to report the matter to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06”
For tips and advice on how to avoid scammers visit http://www.wyjs.org.uk/tradingstandards/consumer-advice/scams-awareness-and-advice/