Cruel scam artists who prey on people in vulnerable circumstances in Wigan face a new foe as big names in the UK energy, water and communications sectors join forces to fight them head-on.
Employees of seven customer-facing utilities, including Cadent, the company which provides the borough’s gas emergency service and manages its underground gas mains network, become frontline “eyes and ears” in a campaign to stop people being duped by criminals into parting with often huge amounts of money.
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Utilities Against Scams (UAS) will invest in training thousands of staff who interact daily with customers in their home, on the phone, or digitally. They can then more easily spot warning signs, provide help and report potential scams.
Scams cost the UK economy up to £10bn every year. Only five per cent are reported, so that figure is likely to be much higher.
On average, a victim loses around £3,000, but it is often the emotional and mental scars that become the bigger and longer-lasting impact.
Numerous Wigan residents, many of them elderly, have been duped by bogus officials over the years and in June it was reported that someone was trying to get into Ince and Worsley Mesnes homes claiming to be from “Wigan and Leigh Housing.”
“This is about empowering people to take a stand against scams by identifying, preventing and reporting them,” said Jo Giles, customer safeguarding manager at Cadent, who has led the formation of Utilities Against Scams.