A senior Sandwell councillor has been appointed a SCAMbassador and joined a national campaign to reduce fraud and criminal financial abuse, referred to as scams.
Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for health and public protection, is backing the council's involvement in the national Friends Against Scams initiative and urging people to become SCAMfriends.
The scheme aims to tackle the lack of scams awareness by providing information about scams and those who can fall victim to them.
People can become SCAMfriends by attending a short 40-minute session locally or by competing an online learning session.
The council’s trading standards team has been busy recruiting eight SCAMchampions – people who run short scam awareness sessions, resulting so far in 200 SCAMfriends - as well as two SCAMbassadors.
SCAMbassadors such as Councillor Costigan, use their influence to highlight the problem, change people’s perceptions and make the fraud and financial abuse a local, regional and national topic of conversation.
Recent scam cases in Sandwell have included a Tipton woman in her eighties who was conned out of £150,000 and had been targeted over several years, and a Great Barr man in his nineties, who lost more than £300,000.
Councillor Costigan, said: “Scams affect the lives of millions of people. People who become victims often experience loneliness, shame and isolation.
“Sadly our own trading standards team hear of far too many heart-rending cases where Sandwell people have been cheated by these fraudsters with the elderly and vulnerable often being systematically targeted.
“Since joining up with the National Trading Standards Scam Team in 2013, the council has supported more than 500 residents including some who have been repeat victims of scams, and in some cases have recovered some of the money they have lost.
"Through the campaign, we will continue to raise awareness by creating SCAMfriends. Information is the scammer’s enemy and by raising awareness we will continue to work against them.”
Joining Councillor Costigan in taking a stand against scams is director of prevention and protection Stuart Lackenby, who has also become a SCAMbassador.
He said: “Anyone can become a SCAMfriend by attending a Friends Against Scams awareness session in person or completing online learning. They can learn how to identify different types of fraud and how to spot and support a victim.
"With their increased knowledge and awareness, they can then make scams part of everyday conversation with their family, friends and neighbours helping to protect themselves and others.”
Awareness sessions are being run by SCAM champions who are trained and supported by the National Trading Standards Scams team.
Sessions will also be run during Sandwell's Safer 6 campaign which runs from Saturday 23 September to Sunday 5 November.