Officers in Cheshire have a new tool in their armoury to protect vulnerable residents from telephone scammers.
State-of-the-art call blocker devices have been installed at the homes of victims that are particularly susceptible to this ever growing form of crime.
Funded by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), the devices prevent fraudsters from getting through to the homes of vulnerable residents.
Police Constable Jim Day, of Cheshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Over-the-phone fraudsters are not small-time criminals. They are part of larger organised crime groups who use a range of tactics to try to get as much money as they can from the people they call, and they are very persistent and their lies can be very convincing.
“With us being in the third national lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic creating new ways to scam victims, these criminals have stepped up their already considerable efforts to target money belonging to people at the other end of the phone.
“Fraud has become the crime that UK citizens are most likely to fall victim to, and here in Cheshire we are dealing with more than 100 cases every week.
“At the Economic Crime Unit we are doing everything we can to identify offenders and bring them to justice, as well as to prevent further offences from being committed.
“As part of this, in August we secured sophisticated call blocker devices from the NWROCU and have since been installing them across Cheshire, at the homes of victims that are particularly vulnerable.
“The areas we have installed them in so far are Alsager, Warrington, Alderley Edge, Macclesfield, Crewe, Chester, Ellesmere Port, Nantwich, Poynton and Knutsford.
“Fraudsters target the elderly and people with early onset dementia, though their operations are often so sophisticated and their lies so convincing that residents of any age can fall for them.
“The call blocker devices prevent the scammers from getting through to those they look to trick and defraud.”
The only people who can get through to homes that are protected by one of the devices are those on a recognised caller list.
PC Day added: “It is not unusual for vulnerable residents to receive several scam and nuisance phone calls every day.
“The devices enable their families to create a recognised caller list for them whereby only those callers can get through to them directly.
“Everyone else can be instructed via voicemail to call a trusted family member – acting as a screen for incoming calls – to tell them who they are and why they want to speak to the vulnerable person.
“If the family member is subsequently happy for the caller to be added to the recognised caller list, they can quickly do so online.
“The vulnerable person’s family can also see details of all their incoming and outgoing calls online.
“With the devices blocking scam and nuisance calls, there have been no repeat fraud offences involving those we have given them to over the past six months.
“We are delighted to have been able to safeguard those victims in this way and will try our best to secure more of the devices to give to those who need them most in Cheshire.”
David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, added: “The fact that fraud offences have risen during the coronavirus pandemic shows that the organised criminals who commit them will stop at nothing for their own financial gain.
“I know that Cheshire Constabulary will continue to do everything in its power to bring the fraudsters to justice and I am pleased to hear of this latest work to safeguard vulnerable victims against repeat offences.”
For more information on call blocker devices email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more fraud prevention advice visit https://www.cheshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud and https://www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Anyone who believes they have been contacted fraudulently or been a victim of fraud should call us on 101 and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Information can also be reported via https://www.cheshire.police.uk/ro/report.