Council vows to 'go after' scammers targeting Portsmouth residents

WE will find you and make you pay for what you've done - that was the stark warning issued to scammers by a city politician.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 2:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 5:03 pm

Portsmouth City Council has vowed to 'crack down' on scam artists by looking to expand its existing investigations team as well as raise awareness by becoming a Friends Against Scams local authority.

Since January 2019 the council has taken on referrals from National Trading Standards (NTS) allowing it to investigate scams, including phone and internet fraud, and follow the crimes through with prosecutions.

It also has the power to 'claw back' cash and possessions from proven criminals.

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Speaking at a community safety meeting yesterday (Jan 28) Edward Skinner, lead for regulatory services, said: 'Portsmouth City Council both investigates and prosecutes so we have the potential to claw back 37.5 per cent of an order that we make.

'This can then be reinvested into our crime reduction strategy.

'Research shows it is far more punitive than going to prison. If we take away that financial gain the criminals - their house, their car, their cash - that they make from criminal activity they are less likely to do it going forward.'

In the last year a total of 682 potential victims of scams were identified in the Portsmouth area. The council's team has supported 92 of those victims.

However, it is thought the number of scam victims is likely to increase in line with the rising ageing population.

Community safety boss Councillor Lee Hunt said: 'It's worrying because we know dementia is gripping our society. These people phone you at home and I am aware how easy it is to scam someone at home, especially if they're vulnerable.

'We will go after them and get them and make them pay for what they've done.

'The more of these criminals we catch the more money we generate and the more money we will have to prosecute these scammers.'

As part of the Friends Against Scams scheme training will be provided by trading services to council staff and senior officers would assigned the role of scambassadors.

Age UK figures state that 53 per cent of over 65-year-olds have been targeted by scams and fraud.