Yorkshire Water joins industry alliance to fight scams

  • People targeted by scam artists are to be supported by a new group founded by Yorkshire Water and other major names in the UK energy, water and communications sector
  • Backed by National Trading Standards, ‘Utilities Against Scams’ will train employees to help spot, stop and prevent customers being duped by fraudsters
  • 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 some of the most vulnerable people in society come up against a new foe from today as Yorkshire Water 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.

‘Utilities Against Scams’ will pool resources and 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 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.

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.

Yorkshire Water Safeguarding Officer Ash Roberts, said: "Helping to tackle some of the challenges our customers face is really critical to us. We have a priority services register with we use to ensure those customers who need specific services get what they need.

"Working with other utility colleagues under the name Utilities Against Scams we have created guidance to help companies ensure that they have staff who can help identify customers who may be targeted and to ensure that their processes allow us ensure the right people know so hopefully others don't fall victim to the criminals activities."

“This is about empowering people to take a stand against scams by identifying, preventing and reporting them,” said Jo Giles, safeguarding specialist 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.”