Wessex Internet is holding a community event at the Village Hall on the 10 August. The event is to bring us up to date on their plans for the village and it is intended to be both informative and social. Wessex have kindly offered to provide refreshments. Please remember that you don’t have to be an existing Wessex customer to attend. So please share this information with local residents and your friends in Holton and Lattiford. The only request from Wessex is that you inform them, see details below, if you plan to attend, so that they can manage and cater for the numbers accordingly.
21/07/2021 9788 Somerset Areas – New partnership helps police protect victims targeted by fraudsters in gift card scams.
Avon and Somerset Police have identified and supported a number of fraud victims thanks to a new partnership with supermarkets designed to help prevent scams.
Fraud Protect Officers launched the initiative back in April after seeing a noticeable rise in scam cases where victims were being asked to purchase gift cards instead of sending money in the more typical ways. We have since been contacted multiple times by stores who have recognised the signs of customers being coerced into buying gift cards by fraudsters.
In most cases the requests for gift cards have been a part of a bigger scam where victims have unwittingly handed over thousands of pounds to criminals over a period of time.
What are scams involving gift cards?
It normally starts by fraudsters trying to gain the trust of their victim, and this process can happen over a period of weeks or months. It can be via the internet with someone posing as a person they are not, often involving an element of romance, or over the phone with a fraudster who is lying, claiming to be working for a reputable organisation, such as the police or HMRC.
Having gained the victim’s trust, they will ask them to purchase gift cards for them and will typically invent a time-critical reason as to why they need the victim to help them.
Once the victim has bought the gift cards they are then asked to provide the individual number on the vouchers. The fraudsters may drain the value of the card, but typically sell the gift cards on. They will usually then ask the victim to go and buy more for them.
Fraud protect officer Amy Horrobin said: “In a large number of these cases, sadly, the victim is taken in by the scam because they are trying to help others, whether that be someone they believe to be a love interest, or a reputable agency.
“These fraudsters are unscrupulous and are only interested in taking people’s money.
—Amy Horrobin, fraud protect officer
“It is brilliant that people are increasingly wary that they shouldn’t hand over banking information or transfer money to people they don’t know, but it means these fraudsters are coming up with more elaborate ways to steal innocent victims’ cash. People don’t tend to associate gift cards so readily with scams.
“If you have been a victim, please report it.”
What are Avon and Somerset Police doing?
We approached several supermarkets in the spring and encouraged them to make their staff aware of these scams and provided them with three simple steps to follow:
•If a transaction seems suspicious, don’t be afraid to challenge the customer and what the purchases are for
•Look out for anyone who appears to be nervous or anxious about what they are doing
•Report it to the police if you think someone is in danger, or a crime is being committed
Fraudsters in years gone by have asked victims to buy iTunes or Amazon vouchers, but we have seen an increasing number of crimes involving the purchase of Steam cards. Steam is an online platform where people can download and play games.
Our proactive work has led to staff at Sainsbury’s stores across the force area – or at Argos stores based within the supermarkets – to recognise several customers as a potential fraud victim. They have referred those incidents to us, allowing us to investigate and support the victim by firstly helping them to realise that they are a victim of fraud, and then providing them with advice and the tools to keep themselves safe in the future.
The incidents reported to us include:
•Sainsbury’s in Taunton contacted us in May amid concerns for a shopper who had made several purchases of Steam cards totalling £140. When we made contact with the victim, it transpired they had been contacted by several people via a gaming app claiming to be single mothers unable to feed their children. In total, he parted with approximately £2,000.
•That same month, a customer who had bought a number of Steam gift cards over a period of weeks then tried to buy a £500 voucher. When approached by staff at Argos in Street, she said she had been asked to buy them for a man living in America who wanted to marry her. We made contact with the victim and established she was the victim of romance fraud. She had been in conversation online with someone with a fake profile and had sent a total of £4,000 to the fraudster.
•And in June a shopper in Bridgwater attempted to purchase two £500 Steam gift cards. They had been phoned by someone claiming to be a police officer, claiming a car had been found in Wales with paperwork linking the vehicle to them and that it also contained drugs and guns. The fraudster said that unless gift cards were bought then the woman could be arrested. We’re continuing to support the victim with advice to help them deal with any future phone scam attempts.
We have contacted other supermarkets too and hope to extend this initiative further in the future to prevent more people being scammed.
Fraud protect officer Jordan Coates said: “We’re really grateful for how seriously Sainsbury’s have taken this issue and supported our fraud prevention work. Their staff have allowed us to intervene and almost certainly prevented victims losing out on large sums of money.”
How to spot the signs of gift card scams
Key signs of a gift card scam are:
•Someone you don’t know, or haven’t met in person, asks you to buy gift cards for them
•Often they will claim it is an emergency
•They will often pull at heart-strings and say you are the only person they can turn to
Our advice to anyone who is asked to buy gift cards is to remember that they will never be a legitimate form of payment under any circumstances, so these requests will certainly be part of a scam. Payment in the form of gift cards is convenient for the fraudster, less likely to be intercepted, and difficult to trace back to them, compared with bank transfers.
Amy continued: “Victims often feel pressurised into buying the gift cards by the situation the fraudster places themselves in. This is a deliberate ploy to prey on the victim’s emotions and seek them to make a decision that rationally they would not make otherwise.
“We would urge anyone who finds themselves in this situation to take a step back and think ‘could this be a scam?’ and to ask someone else’s opinion if unsure. If contacted by an organisation saying they need you to buy gift cards, it’s safe to assume it’s a scam.”
Jordan added: “The police, bank or other reputable organisation will never ask you to obtain gift cards for them, in the same way they will never ask for your PIN number or you to withdraw money for them. If unsure, find a phone number for them – don’t use any number provided by the suspect – and call them to check.
“If you are asked to obtain gift cards by someone you have been speaking to online, you are likely a victim of romance fraud.”
Advice from victims
Some of the victims we have helped in recent weeks and months have offered the following advice to people.
One female victim said: “Tell someone else about what is being asked of you. I have a carer who could have helped me but the fraudster told me I could not tell anyone. I felt very isolated and frightened.”
A male victim advises checking how many profile pictures a new request has and look at their biography or description. He said if he’s never met them, they only have two or three photos and minimal personal details he will not engage with them online.
He added: “The language my scammer used was fractured and often did not make sense.”
He went on to praise the work of Avon and Somerset Police fraud protect team, saying: “Thank you Amy and Jordan for everything you have done and continue to do. You saved me a lot of money and I hope by speaking out it helps others.”
How to report scams
Under-reporting is a real issue with these sorts of crimes as victims wrongly believe they would be wasting our time, there’s nothing that can be done or they feel embarrassed by what has happened.
We urge anyone in this situation to report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk
You were sent this message because you are in the following group(s): North Cheriton (North Cheriton, BA80AQ).
Today was a great success with over 20 villagers attending, all saying they enjoyed being out in the open having coffee and cakes, only one complaint out of 20 so not a bad day.
Thank you all for attending and hope to see you gain next week.
We hope North Cheriton villagers will join us for a welcome chance to safely socialise with cheerful company again. As we are hoping for a nice day, this gathering will be an outside affair and will take place on the new deck at the side of the hall. To be Covid safe we should all adhere to the current guidelines and socially distance and remain masked until seated. We will be serving cafetiere coffee with biscuits at £1.50 a cup with a limited number of chocolate muffins on offer at 50p each. It would be helpful if you could bring change/coins with you.
All proceeds from this community wellbeing event will be donated to the Village Hall renovations fund.
For Immediate Release 21 June 2021
No quick fix for waste collection problems
Delays and disruption to waste collections are likely last for some time, Somerset Waste Partnership said today (21 June).
SWP and its collections contractor SUEZ apologise and are asking for public patience, warning that there is “no quick fix” in the face of an escalating nationwide shortage of truck drivers.
SWP is responsible for more than 350,000 collections every week, the vast majority of which have gone smoothly as crews worked throughout the pandemic.
But recent weeks have seen significant delays to some recycling and garden waste collections.
Recycling collections missed last week in any part of the county will not be returned for until the next scheduled collection day this week.
Crews will be returning as soon as possible for any collections missed this week, within two days if they can but that may not always be possible.
SWP is monitoring collections closely and will consider any further actions if needed.
Residents can help ease the pressure by:
- Doing as much as possible online – use the My Waste Services feature on the SWP homepage to ordering replacement containers, reporting a missed collection, request an assisted collection etc.
- Only reporting a missed collection if it is urgent. We know we are missing some collections and will be back as soon as we can.
- Crush, squash and flatten waste if you can and it is safe. It saves space and speeds up collections.
- If a collection is delayed and you really need dispose of your recycling, please use your local recycling site if you can.
The well-documented long-term shortage of LGV drivers nationally has been worsened by Covid-19 delays to training and testing, and EU drivers leaving the UK.
The recent reopening of non-essential retail has added to the demand for drivers, a situation described by the Road Haulage Association as being of “catastrophic proportions”.
SWP Managing Director, Mickey Green, said: “We know we’re not where we need to be but there’s no quick fix.
“We apologise and are working hard to get back of track, please bear with us.
“It’s frustrating, but let’s not forget that these crews are key workers have worked non-stop through a pandemic that has increased loads by about 20%.
“A lot of people have worked long hours to make sure waste is collected. It’s very difficult at the moment and we appreciate your patience.”
Updates on collections can be found on the SWP website, however full details are often not known until late into the afternoon or evening.
Qualified HGV drivers, including anyone recently retired, are urged to consider driver and crew vacancies in Bridgwater, Evercreech, and Taunton.
SUEZ is working hard to retain, recruit and train drivers, including substantial advertising, a “refer a friend” scheme and approaching ex-Forces networks.
Driver/loader and loader vacancy details: www.somersetwaste.gov.uk/job2021
Please check SWP’s website for updates at somersetwaste.gov.uk.