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Cold call fraudsters net £1.5m
FRAUDSTERS have conned victims out of at least £1.5million across North Yorkshire this year with older people being targeted the most.
Some people’s losses have run to tens of thousands of pounds, and the number of cases in North Yorkshire has prompted the launch of a campaign to highlight the problem of so-called “boiler room” scams in a bid to protect others.
The scams are usually based overseas and act like a call centre with cold calls offering false investment opportunities in “commodities” ranging from shares, land investment and fine wines to environmental ventures.
The victims are invariably aged over 60 and have not used the internet to conduct any research about the investment.
North Yorkshire Police has teamed up with Age UK, North Yorkshire County Council Library Services and the NHS to help alert people over 60 to the scam and offer fraud prevention advice.
A booklet by Age UK, called Avoiding Scams, will be in all libraries, hospital wards for older patients and doctors’ waiting rooms across North Yorkshire. A poster is also being prominently displayed. It is hoped this will be extended to City of York libraries.
Detective Constable Melanie Spanton, of the Major Fraud Investigation Team, said: “While there are many websites with warnings about this type of fraud widely available on the internet, our experience is that victims are not using computers to conduct research and are vulnerable to this type of fraud.
“We all have a responsibility to keep vulnerable friends and relatives safe from fraudsters.”
The Press has previously reported on boiler room scam cases in York and North Yorkshire including a pensioner who was in his eighties and from Hambleton who lost his life savings to a cold-calling conman.
He invested £60,000 but when relatives investigated they found the shares in three foreign companies were virtually worthless.
In 2011, multimillionaire fraudster Richard Pope, 53, from Hertfordshire, was facing up to 20 years in a US jail after admitting ripping off thousands of investors – including some from York and North Yorkshire – in Britain’s biggest “boiler room” scam.
He funded a lifestyle of fast cars, yachts and private jets as his gang pressurised more than 2,300 people over the phone into buying non-existent shares, making more than £100 million.
DC Spanton urged people to look at the booklet – also available on the Age UK website – and talk about it with people who may be at risk. The guide also features advice on other scams.
Sue Lister, from the executive Committee of Older Citizens Advocacy York, said the trend was very worrying.
“Older people don’t like just putting the phone down but we have been advising people to say they don’t take any cold calls and end the call.”
Mervyn Kohler, Age UK’s external affairs adviser, said: “There are undoubtedly are a number of frail and vulnerable older people living on their own without ready access to friends, family and others to share problems with and are more likely to be targeted by scammers. If people are caught out they may feel embarrassed but they need to report it so we can find who is responsible.”