MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT LINE

Lockdown can be different for everyone depending on your personal situation, however if you feel you’re struggling there are organisations available to provide support and advice.

A 24-hour mental health helpline launched at the beginning of the second national lockdown has already received and supported more than 400 calls for help.

The helpline, established by Stoke-on-Trent City Council with Brighter Futures, has received 431 calls from residents struggling with their mental health, with 33 of these calls being from residents who said they were feeling suicidal.

Call handlers from Brighter Futures provide callers with a safe space to talk about the issues they are facing. They can then signpost callers to the most appropriate support service. Some of the issues residents have raised include worries about coronavirus, relationship problems, and other concerns about their mental health. Although this is based in Stoke on Trent, residents from elsewhere in Staffordshire can still access this service.

If you feel you need someone to talk to you can call the helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 01782 234233.

 

SURGE IN ONLINE SHOPPING FRAUD

Reports of online shopping fraud have surged by 30% over the pandemic as many of us continue to shop online in light of current restrictions.

Figures from Action Fraud show that criminals conned 17,407 shoppers out of almost £13.5 million over the Christmas period last year, an increase of over 20% when compared to the same period in 2018.

Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online, ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as shoppers search for bargains and gifts for loved ones in the run up to Christmas.

Top tips to shop online securely this festive season:

Where to shop:
Making a purchase from an online store you haven’t used before? Carry out some research first, or ask a friend or family member if they’ve used the site and about their experiences before completing the purchase.

Your information:
Only create an account if necessary or to save you effort if you’re going to use that site a lot in the future. Be cautious if the website asks you for details that are not required for your purchase, such as your mother’s maiden name or the name of your primary school.

Payments:
If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, ensure that the webpage where you enter your payment details is secure (website address starts with “https”). Using a credit card to pay online also means that should the worst happen and your payment details are compromised, your main bank account won’t be directly affected.

Phishing:
Some of the messages you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites. Not all links are bad, but if you’re unsure, don’t use the link – go separately to the website. Report any suspicious emails you receive by forwarding them to: report@phishing.gov.uk You can also report suspicious text messages by forwarding them to 7726.

For more information about how to shop online securely, please visit:
actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely

FRAUD ALERT: COURIER SCAM

Residents living in the north of the county are urged to be on their guard following a number of reports of courier fraud.

A courier scam is when fraudsters call and trick you into handing your cards and PIN numbers to a courier on your doorstep. There are many variations of the scam, but it usually follows this method:

  • A fraudster will cold call you on a landline, claiming to be from your bank or the police. They state their systems have spotted a fraudulent payment on your card or it is due to expire and needs to be replaced.
  • In order to reassure you that they are genuine, they suggest that you hang up and ring the bank/police back straight away. However, they don’t disconnect the call from the landline so that when you dial the real phone number, you are actually still speaking to the fraudster.
  • They then ask you to read out your PIN or type it on your phone keypad. They may ask for details of other accounts you hold with the bank or financial service provider, or ask you to verify details of your last transaction.
  • Finally, they send a courier to you to collect your bank card. The fraudster will have then obtained your name, address, full bank details, card and PIN.

If you receive one of these calls end it immediately, and do not engage with anyone who calls to collect your card or PIN.

Protect yourself against courier fraud:

  • Your bank will never send a courier to your home
  • Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card
  • Your bank and the police will never ask for your PINPlease share this advice with friends or relatives who may not have access to our updates, particularly elderly parents, grand-parents, friends and neighbours.

FRAUD ALERT: VISHING

Fraud over the phone – or Vishing – is when a fraudster calls claiming they are from your bank or some other trusted organisation e.g. the police. It is easy for them to convince you too, since they can both fake the telephone number on the screen and do their research to find out some of your basic bank and personal details. Remember though, a genuine bank will never ask you for personal or financial details like your PIN number or full banking password (even by tapping it into your phone keypad).

Five things look out for on a scam phone call:

1. The caller doesn’t give you time to think, tries to stop you speaking to a family member or friend or is insistent and makes you feel uncomfortable.

2. The caller asks you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.

3. They phone to ask for your four-digit card PIN or your online banking password. Even if they ask you to give it to them by tapping into the telephone keypad rather than saying the numbers out loud, this is a scam.

4. They ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping.

5. They may say that you are a victim of fraud and offer to send a courier to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book.

Be vigilant, do not engage in conversation, put the phone down and tell someone you trust. If you have been a victim of such a fraud and you have handed money to someone, please contact 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

 

FRAUD ALERT : TV PROVIDER DISCOUNT FRAUD

We have been made aware of a scam that is currently taking place around the country.  Fraudsters are cold-calling victims, claiming to be from a television provider and offering a discount on their monthly subscription.

Victims have been told the following: their subscription needs to be renewed; that part or all of the TV equipment has expired and they are due an upgrade on the equipment.

In order to falsely process the discount, the fraudster askes victims to confirm or provide their bank account details.  The scammers may also request the victim’s identification documents, such as scanned copies of passports.

The fraudsters are using the following telephone numbers: 0844 711 1444, 0203 519 0197 and 0800 151 4141.  The fraudsters’ voices are reported to sound feminine and have an Asian accent.

Later victims make enquiries and then discover that their TV service provider did not call them and that the fraudster has made transactions using the victim’s bank account details.

Since the beginning of the year there have been 300 Action Fraud reports relating to this scam.  From the reports received, victims aged over 66 seem to be the most targeted.

So far we are not aware of any such incidents in Staffordshire, but Staffordshire Police are warning people to be on their guard.  If you receive, or have received such a call, please contact Staffordshire Police on 101 and report it.