• Durham OnAir

Fighting against fraud in County Durham


County Durham residents are being reminded of the dangers posed by fraudsters during a

week of action to fight fraud and raise awareness.


Durham County Council is calling on members of the public to be vigilant and help in its

fight against fraud as part of International Fraud Awareness Week, which runs until

Saturday 19 November.


The council’s own corporate fraud team, which investigates adult social care, blue badge,

business rates, council tax, insurance, procurement, schools and tenancy frauds, has

investigated almost 500 allegations of fraudulent activity this year alone, worth around £1

million.


Since it was first set up in 2015, the team has recovered or intercepted more than £14

million of actual and attempted fraud against the council and its partners, including local

housing associations.


The team has played an important role in ensuring the financial support provided to

residents and businesses during the pandemic was legitimate, preventing payments

totalling £695,000 on fraudulent applications by an organised crime gang.


In this case, the investigator was able to freeze the fraudster’s bank account, stopping

them from accessing the business grants they had fraudulently obtained. While the grants

schemes have now closed, investigations are ongoing and fraudsters will continue to be

prosecuted.


Cllr Richard Bell, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for finance, said: “We take a zero-

tolerance approach to fraud as a council. A number of perpetrators have been successfully

prosecuted as a result of investigations carried out by our corporate fraud team and the

team continues to work tirelessly to identify and prevent further frauds across County

Durham.


“In the current economic climate, fraudsters continue to try to advantage of members of

the public in any way they can. I would therefore urge all residents to be on their guard to

scams. If they are concerned about any correspondence or unsolicited contact they

receive, such as a phone call, email or letter that doesn’t look genuine, I would ask that

they report it to us and help us to fight fraud.”


Common scams include fake emails which are designed to look like an offer of council tax

reduction or refunds to the imitation of NHS Track and Trace or TV licensing and

subscription services.


Residents are also urged to look out for fake courier texts which charge for rebooking

deliveries, emails about Amazon delivery problems which try to access account details, as

well as calls from people pretending to be internet providers who ask people to carry out

tasks on their computer which will give them remote access to the device.


Other warning signs include:


  •  A website address which is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation

  •  A phone call, text or email which asks for financial information such as PINs or

  • passwords

  •  A call or email that appears out of the blue with an urgent request for personal or

  • financial information, or to make an immediate payment

  •  An offer of a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product compared to the

  • original price

  •  Spelling and grammar mistakes or inconsistencies in the story given.


For more information, or to report a fraud, visit www.durham.gov.uk/fraud


To find out more ways to spot a scam, visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk