MORE prominence is to be given to the work tackling fraudsters by Carmarthenshire’s Trading Standards department.
The department has saved people in the county hundreds of thousands of pounds since it consolidated nine pieces of work – such as the roll-out of nuisance call blocker devices – into an umbrella project called the financial exploitation and safeguarding scheme, according to a report before the council’s executive board.
The report by a councillor-led task and finish group shone a light on what was often a hidden problem, with many people unwilling to report being scammed and complexity over which body referred or investigated what.
The group made six recommendations, which were all approved by executive board meeting on July 5.
They included the council giving the issue of financial exploitation more prominence, and to consider providing Trading Standards with more funding to deal with the problem.
Another recommendation was to revive a former advice and support group in Carmarthenshire, comprising the council and Dyfed-Powys Police among others.
Although more and more fraud is perpetrated online and over the phone these days, the report gave an example of a vulnerable Carmarthenshire resident who was living in a caravan because a shoddy roofing job had left her home “in squalor”.
One of the councillors who visited the female victim said in the report that she was lost for words, and had to hold back tears.
“She was on my mind for the rest of the day and night,” said the councillor.
The report praised the achievements of the Trading Standards’ financial exploitation and safeguarding scheme, which was set up in 2014, but said it was – for various reasons – difficult to obtain a true picture of the scale of fraud locally.
The absence of a local fraud measure “was of great concern”, said the report.
The work of the financial exploitation and safeguarding scheme is spread between six Trading Standards officers, but currently accounts for the equivalent of 1.5 full-time staff.
Executive board members thanked the task and finish group for the report.
CllrGlynog Davies said consumer exploitation had increased over the past year and a half at a time when people have been “at their lowest ebb”.
Cllr Hazel Evans said: “It’s disgusting what they to do people, and how vulnerable they (people) have become – and not just the elderly.”