MORE than £2million has been seized from the hands of criminals as a result of the efforts of Trading Standards staff over the last five years.
Since 2009, the Hampshire County Council (HCC) team has recovered £1m from scammers and secured a further £1m in confiscation orders in the courts.
The largest amount recovered, under confiscation orders, was £300,000, following the successful conviction of a man for selling fake electrical goods online. He was sent to prison for his crimes.
HCC receives, on average, 65 referrals each month from adult services, the police, other agencies and residents who have been the victims of financial abuse.
The specialist Trading Standards team works with victims to help retrieve their money.
Pauline McWilliams, from Trading Standards’ safeguarding unit, said: “Trading Standards visit every person to see how they are coping and to find out what’s happened.
“For example, someone with a learning disability, or an elderly person, may have paid £15,000 for some double-glazing work after a sales person knocked on their door.
“They may have felt pressurised by the cold call into buying a product they didn’t need or want. We would then intervene on their behalf and negotiate with the relevant company to get them a partial or full refund.
“We would argue that the customer didn’t have the capacity to make the decision. Most companies are accommodating and the refunds are given.
“Sometimes our teams are the only people to be allowed into these vulnerable people’s homes, so we offer an holistic approach when we visit, not only working to get their money back, but also referring them to other agencies, where appropriate, to obtain other help if needed.”
HCC is appealing to victims to come forward and make a report if they feel they have been the victim of a scam.
Councillor Roy Perry, leader of HCC, said: “I hope residents feel much safer knowing that HCC is fighting their cause and punishing those who flout the law to the detriment of others.
“It doesn’t matter if it is £300,000 that is recovered, or £1 – we will look to recover the proceeds.”
Anyone who has fallen victim to a scam or cold call, or knows someone who has been affected, is urged to report the matter to trading standards by calling the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 040506 or visit hants.gov.uk/trading standards.htm.