Trading Standards helps prevent elderly couple from losing their £1millon life savings


Posted on: 5 July 2016

Trading standards officers and a major bank have prevented a vulnerable Mid Devon couple from being scammed out of their £1million life savings through a series of timeshare-related frauds.

The Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service (DSTSS) and the RBS investment fraud team helped convince the couple, who are in their mid-80s, that they were being scammed.

The couple had a timeshare in a boat and because of their age they wanted to sell.

Timeshare resellers often pay fees and fraudsters obtained the couple’s details and sent them repeated requests for fees. Then a ‘new’ company offered to help get their money back – for a fee.

The couple’s two previous banks had closed their accounts, allowing them to be targeted again and again. However RBS investigators were alerted to the fraud by several overly expensive direct debits.

DSTSS officers supported the victims, helped convince the couple they were being conned, determined  which previous payments had been scams and helped them find reputable traders through the Buy With Confidence scheme.

They also gave them advice on recognising and avoiding future scams – the couple had previously lost £30,000 to other types of fraud. Following the investigation, Trading Standards officers held a series of advice sessions for bank customers at several NatWest branches throughout Devon and Somerset.

Officers also successfully nominated a member of RBS investment fraud team, Michael King, for a Chartered Trading Standards Institute ‘hero’ award.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with Cllr Roger Croadresponsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The couple were sceptical they were being scammed and our officers convinced them they were slowly and surely giving away everything they had worked for to criminals.
“As in this case, many victims don’t even realise they are being scammed until the criminals have bled them dry.
“A different approach was taken and the bank asked for our help and together we made sure the message got through.
“This couple had been targeted repeatedly over the years and thankfully we were able to stop them losing their life savings.”

Councillor David Hall, the Deputy Leader for Somerset County Council, with Cllr David Hallresponsibility for trading standards, said: “This one case has help lift the lid on many others.
“With this information hopefully we will be able to protect even more elderly people from becoming targeted and being the victims of crime.
“Scams can come in all shapes and sizes, so never give money or financial details to anyone you’re not certain of and never to anyone who calls out of the blue. Most scams work by casting a wide net and contacting hundreds of people in the hope that a few will pay out. Remember the old saying, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
“We will continue to do all we can to protect our residents through the Buy With Confidence scheme.”

To learn more about scams, visit the Devon & Somerset Trading Standards Service website.

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