- People targeted by scam artists are to be supported by a new group founded by Cadent and other major names in the UK energy, water and communications sector
- Backed by National Trading Standards, ‘Utilities Against Scams’ (UAS) will train employees to help spot, stop and prevent customers being duped by criminals
- Launch of UAS comes on the same day as publication of the latest annual report on UK scam activity, which identifies a rise in energy-sector related scams
Cruel scam artists who prey on people in vulnerable circumstances face a new foe from today (27 Nov) as Cadent and other big names in the UK energy, water and communications sectors join forces to fight them head-on.
Employees of seven customer-facing utilities become frontline ‘eyes and ears’ in a campaign to stop people being duped by criminals into parting with often huge amounts of money.
Launched today (27 Nov), ‘Utilities Against Scams’ will commit resources to provide consistent training to 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.
The new group forms on the same day National Trading Standards – which supports and has helped set up UAS – publishes its annual ‘Consumer Harm’ Report. This explains that scams within the utility sector, for example bogus green energy deals, are on the increase.
The founding members of UAS – Anglian Water, British Gas, Cadent, Consumer Council for Water, Plusnet, SSE and Yorkshire Water – are also committing to spread the word within the industry, so that the network can expand rapidly and become a major force in fighting scams.
Each company has published its own pledge as part of joining Utilities Against Scams.
This is Cadent's commitment:
All customer facing staff will complete the UAS training to help them to spot and stop scams where possible through reporting to the relevant agencies. Cadent will proactively identify hot spots of potential scam victims through data tools available to us and to support a greater awareness of scams across our networks. We will deliver 10,000 aids (such as anti-scam door stickers and notepads) to support key guidance to prevent scams as detailed in the UAS guidance.
Scams cost the UK economy up to £10bn every year. Only 5% 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.
“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.
“Scams are becoming more commonplace, more sophisticated and harder to spot. As utility companies, we meet and talk to customers on a daily basis. This puts us in an ideal position to support people who may be targeted, to spot tell-tale signs and act. Utilities Against Scams creates a clear and consistent approach in how we do this.”
Louise Baxter, from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said: “We see on a daily basis that criminal scams do huge damage to our society. The people who are targeted are often in the most vulnerable circumstances and the impact is huge – from significant financial losses to emotional damage with victims feeling frightened and hopeless.
“It’s fantastic that the utility sector – gas, electricity, water and communications companies – has come together to create this important new network and join our campaign. To stop scams, we need to identify and report them. Having a new ‘army’ of customer-facing employees trained in knowing the signs is going to make a big difference.”
Utilities Against Scams
becomes a branch of Friends Against Scams
, founded three years ago by the National Trading Standards Scams Team to protect UK consumers from mass marketing fraud. Through this initiative, more than 300,000 people have so far been trained as ‘friends’.
If you would like to become a UAS partner, email the lead contact in the National Trading Standards Scams Team Nikki Pasek
The Utilities Against Scams members are also sharing ‘top tips’ for customers on social media from today (with hashtags #FriendsAgainstScams and #ScamAware) and distributing hard-copy materials – such as window stickers – which highlight the same tips and guidance.