'Scams are a pervasive criminal threat that destroy lives' - police commissioner

Scams damage lives and we need to do more to educate the public about the risks, writes West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 11:45 am

As the Yorkshire Evening Post continues its Stop the Scammers campaign, Mark Burns-Williamson tells us why he signed up to become an ambassador for the national Friends Against Scams programme.

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He says: "We need to do more to understand the threat of cyber crimes such as online fraud, grooming, and cyber bullying, by educating the public about these risks, and working with others including businesses to develop the right tools and skill sets to help properly investigate and prevent wherever possible these types of crimes.

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West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson is backing the Yorkshire Evening Post's Stop The Scammers campaign.

"That’s why I joined the Friends Against Scams campaign, which is an initiative that aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering individuals and communities to ‘Take a Stand Against Scams’ given that most people will now have some form of digital footprint.

"As a SCAMbassador, I joined the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and others to help protect everyone from scams and the damage they can cause. It enables me to work with members of the community at local and national levels to better educate and support those who may be vulnerable to such scams.

"Scams damage lives and can affect people financially and emotionally, so it was with great pride that I joined up with the various bodies in working together to help prevent people from becoming victims. By signing up as a SCAMbassador I pledged to help make West Yorkshire as scam-free as possible.

"The spiteful and awful consequences of targeting people for financial exploitation and crime is all too clear and it is particularly important that we protect and support those that are targeted and seen as more vulnerable.

"Each year scams affect millions of people across the UK and cost consumers an estimated £5bn-£10bn of detriment of each year, which is a staggering figure. Scams are a pervasive criminal threat, which in addition to the financial damage can also cause serious detrimental, long-term psychological effects and ultimately destroy lives.

"Scams often target those perceived as most vulnerable in society, but the reality is that anyone can become a victim of scams.

"As part of the wider work that I have done to safeguard against scams is to part fund the West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team (WYFEAT), which is made up of co-located specialists from West Yorkshire Police, adult social care and Trading Standards, who investigate financial exploitation and abuse of vulnerable and older victims.

"This team protects people from heartless criminality, helping to bring the perpetrators to justice, fully supports victims and reduces repeat victimisation. It’s a team that has done some excellent joint work and had some great results.

"As technology develops, so too does criminality and more and more crime is being carried out online and in the digital world.

"Crime carried out in 'cyber space' is borderless and often comes with a level of anonymity for the offenders which would not be seen with more conventional crime types, posing barriers for those who are trying to prevent, detect and prosecute such criminals.

"In January I launched a cyber crime competition with West Yorkshire Police for school children in years 7, 8 and 9 to design a cyber prevention resource such as a website, leaflet, phone app or even a musical resource. This is the third year we have run this competition due to its success across West Yorkshire.

"Each year I support and raise awareness about the national Safer Internet Day, which is held globally in February to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people and inspire a national conversation to build safe and better everyday practices.

"West Yorkshire Police and the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner also host information on our websites for members of the public and businesses on how to better safeguard themselves online, and regularly promote this information through social media and my monthly newsletter.

"My Safer Communities Fund, made up from the Proceeds of Crime, has more recently funded various projects worth over £27,000 that have a cyber crime focus.

"We have to continue to work together in partnership to ensure we are doing all we can to protect all of us, and particularly more vulnerable people, from such exploitation.

"If you have any concerns that you or someone you know has been a victims of a scam please contact West Yorkshire Police or visit Action Fraud as we all have a role to play.”