Not long before the nation went into lockdown, Dudley Council launched the Dudley Financial Abuse Alliance to tackle the issue of financial crime in the borough.
From the outset its objective was clear, to put a stop to this kind of activity in Dudley borough by sharing knowledge and expertise and identifying ways to prevent and block future scams.
The alliance is made up of organisations from a variety of sectors including local financial institutions, organisations providing care to the elderly and vulnerable residents and voluntary organisations.
At the time of the launch, no one could have foreseen the pandemic that was about to unfold, and this has impacted the work of the alliance and significantly shifted its focus over the last few months.
It’s been widely reported that financial criminals have tried to cash in on the pandemic and to benefit from people’s heightened anxieties. This has been the case in Dudley borough too.
There have been reports of criminals targeting Dudley residents over the phone, on the doorstep and via email with coronavirus related scams and alliance members have been playing their part to put a stop to this.
In the last few months, we have seen financial criminals target everybody, not just those who are typically targeted by scammers, those being the elderly and vulnerable.
Thank you to everyone. Whether you work for the council or at one of our partner organisations, for everything you have done to protect and support local people at a time when they really need it. This demonstrates the value in working together on such an important issue.
Here’s a round of up of what some of the alliance members have been up to in the last few months:
Dudley Council’s scams unit has continued to support residents who have been targeted by scammers. In most cases staff have been able to offer support and guidance over the phone and in more serious cases they have been able to install call blockers in people’s homes. Since the start of the pandemic the team has spoken to and supported more than 280 Dudley borough residents.
The council’s adult social care day centre staff were unable to open centres to Dudley residents but have been able to support them in different ways. They were able to be part the council’s enhanced pleased to meet you service, which provided support to residents who were self-isolating or shielding with essential food and medication deliveries and friendly telephone chats. Staff also worked with the council’s scams team to help identify those who could benefit from a call blocker.
The Castle and Crystal Credit Union helped by providing secure savings and affordable loans to residents. Find out more about how they helped save a member’s life by watching this video
Dudley Building Society has been dedicated to helping its members overcome the challenges of the pandemic. It’s looked at alternative options for those unable to visit branches, offered mortgage payment deferrals to customers who were concerned they would fall behind on their payments as well as provide information online to help people become more scam aware.
In recognising that the pandemic would see many people experience increased financial pressure, England’s Illegal Money Lending Team has worked to prevent illegal money lenders (loan sharks) from taking advantage and profiting from other people’s misfortune. The Stop Loan Sharks helpline service (0300 555 2222) remains open and fully operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they also operate a new online chat service for victims, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Thanks once again to all involved.
Councillor Nicolas Barlow
Cabinet member for health and adult social care