East Riding's safe communities team brings fraud prevention to life
Being a victim of fraud can have devastating and long-lasting implications for individuals. Victims can often feel a sense of shame or embarrassment for being caught out and therefore do not report incidents to the police, or seek support from family.
This is the type of scenario that was put forward at a series of events hosted by East Riding of Yorkshire Council in Pocklington, Bridlington and Cottingham last week.
At Pocklington Arts Centre, the council's safer communities team were joined by the local Neighbourhood Policing team to support and offer reassurance to members of the neighbourhood watch network regarding potential scams.
Throughout the evening, Hull-based theatre group Spin-Off Productions took to the stage to act out scenarios about fraud. After these short pieces ended, there was an opportunity to go back over the scenes and discuss where the characters' decisions could be improved.
The first scenario focused on a man who lived alone. A leak had sprung in the bedroom and he didn't feel he could ask his neighbour for help. A man knocked at the door and formed a bond over a shared military past, before coercing him into withdrawing his savings from the bank.
At this point, audience participation was encouraged and the neighbourhood watch representatives set to work identifying ways in which the character could have prevented the intrusion.
Cllr David Elvidge portfolio holder for community involvement and voluntary sector at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: "It is fantastic to be able to bring such important issues such as fraud to life during our neighbourhood watch events. It is a unique way of expanding our knowledge of fraud and the signs to look out for but the team at Spin-Off Productions were brilliant and I'm sure members of the neighbourhood watch groups found this session eye opening.
"The work the council and Humberside Police do is really important to fight crime, but it is also fantastic to be able to empower our communities by bringing these issues to life for them and demonstrate the signs they should be looking out for."
This interactive sharing of ideas from neighbourhood watch and representatives from the police, banks and council proved beneficial to all. Discussions included having an agreed indicator with neighbours to show you need assistance; what fraud prevention tools already exist; and the banking protocol. The latter means bank staff can call the police if a customer appears under duress. It is not universal but is in action in Humberside.
Another useful tool is Take Five (www.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/), which is simple, effective advice to help prepare you for an eventuality in which you suspect you are being scammed.
Detective Inspector Ben Robinson of our Economic Crime Unit said: "Tackling fraud and protecting the most vulnerable people in our society is a key priority for us and events such as these provide a visible representation of how fraud can occur and also how it can be prevented.
"It is crucial that, before you make a bank or cash transaction or online payment, you make sure you are doing so to a legitimate business.
"Heartless fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated in the way they deceive people. Be wary of offers of business deals or assistance out of the blue. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always question it - and never feel embarrassed to seek help or advice."
The second acted scenario involved a woman who became the victim of a phone scam. The friendly person on the phone conducted market research and questions about horoscopes. These seemingly innocuous questions were designed to extract information such as date of birth and who they banked with.
Those gathered - audience and actors - made the important point that it isn't just elderly people who can be targeted by fraudsters, there are scams that target people of all ages.
A workshop followed where everyone discussed what actions can be taken, with the overwhelming message being that no one should be afraid to ask for help or say no.
For further advice, click here: https://www.humberside.police.uk/fraud