Call blocker proves 'life-changing' for vulnerable resident
Small devices that block unwanted phone calls have made a huge difference to vulnerable people in Staffordshire at risk of scams.
One installation of a call blocker has been “life-changing” for a resident who was previously plagued by dozens of cold calls each week, a Staffordshire Trading Standards boss revealed.
And the devices – which are smaller than many landline phones – have also prevented elderly and vulnerable people falling victim to fraudsters attempting to trick them out of money, county councillors have been told. Staffordshire Trading Standards has been providing call blockers for residents as part of its ongoing work to tackle scams.
Trish Caldwell, the county commissioner for regulatory services and community safety, said: “Scams come in many forms including uninvited contact by email, letter, phone or at the door – all with the aim of conning victims out of money. The effects aren’t just financial loss, but they affect health, family, loss of confidence and it increases anxiety.
“Fraudsters share information on potential victims and one in four victims of bogus officials are likely to have been a previous victim of rogue traders. Once scammed, names get passed on for further scamming – you can be part of what is known as a ‘suckers list’.
“Call blockers are a way of safeguarding vulnerable people against telephone scams and this is something Trading Standards are very active in. The devices block recorded telephone messages, any silent calls and also any numbers that are not pre-identified by the resident or their family and programmed in.
“We urge more people with elderly and vulnerable family members to consider this because it gives a good protection. The research shows that once installed, these devices can effectively block up to 95% of nuisance and scam calls.
“Vulnerable people at risk of such calls are referred to us by voluntary agencies, GPs and social care teams. They get referred to us for a device, which we will loan out free of charge to the most vulnerable in Staffordshire, but residents can also buy them for themselves.”
Staffordshire Trading Standards has installed 208 call blockers over the last two years, including 72 during the past seven months, the committee heard. During the first six months of the year almost 10,000 nuisance calls were blocked.
The service has also blocked around 2,700 scam calls and nine scams were prevented. This action saved more than £74,000 for vulnerable people in Staffordshire – and other benefits included avoiding spending a further £44,000 on social care and NHS services.
Ms Caldwell said: “One woman had been a victim of quite a nasty violent robbery and was being supported by the Victim Gateway (a free service that assists victims of crime in Staffordshire). The lady lives alone and was receiving high numbers of cold callers, often aggressive, on a daily basis.
“While the support person was at the lady’s property she received seven calls in two hours. The lady estimated she was having around 50 a week like that.
“The Victim Gateway completed the referral form, passed it through to us and we prioritised it, called out to the lady the next day and set it up for her. We then had some feedback from the Victim Gateway volunteer, who said the call blocker is amazing.
“She went as far as to say it’s life-changing – she can now sit down without feeling on edge waiting for the next call. The following week the volunteer came back to us and said the lady was still raving about the call blocker and she hadn’t had a single sales call since it was installed.
“That’s just one happy lady and one success story. We’re very proud of the fact we can make such a difference with something that is quite a small piece of equipment.”
For more information on call blockers, including how to apply for a free device for a vulnerable person, visit https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/Business/Tradingstandards/Community-intervention/Call-Blockers.aspx#:~:text=What%20Is%20A%20Call%20Blocker,within%20your%20Trading%20Standards%20team. Call blockers can also be purchased from online retailers.