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Neighbourhood Watch shakes off "curtain twitcher" image, as it expands remit

 

This week is National Neighbourhood Watch week, with an upsurge in membership across the UK and over 100 active local watches running across the Vale of Glamorgan.

Across the UK, groups are seeing a younger age group join, due particularly to the coronavirus lockdown, which has forced people to stay at home.

Traditionally more popular with the older generation, NW has grown significantly in the last year or so and it is now the largest single charity in England and Wales in terms of numbers with over 2.3 million members and 90,000 co-ordinators.

In the Vale of Glamorgan, the number of active Watches is also rising, co-ordinated by the Vale of Glamorgan Neighbourhood Watch Association, which liaises closely with the county council and the police. According to a recent survey there are well over 100 active local Watches in the Vale with around 300 people signed up to the new Vale Connects Safety communication system.

Neighbourhood Watch has recently expanded its remit, in an attempt to shaken off its ‘curtain twitcher’ image.

Not only do members continue to be alert to potential crimes and suspicious circumstances, but they are also involved in creating safer and more cohesive communities, especially where older and vulnerable residents live.

In particular, there has been an increasing concern about cybercrime. Historically, scammers knocked on doors, but people are now more concerned about “Phishing” stalkerware and malware.

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As a result, a spin-off, Cyberhood Watch, has been created, which warns members of the latest scams and digital threats. A survey of 28,000 NW members found that 39% are now more concerned about cybercrime than burglary.

One in five respondents apparently had fallen victim to cybercrime during the pandemic with many losing more than £1000! In addition, social media has enabled effective real-time reporting and the rise in dash-cam and doorbell cameras has also allowed members to quickly share intelligence and evidence with police.

As part of Neighbourhood Watch Week, a list of recent scams has been collated:

  • Parcel Delivery – Text and email based; the criminals try to cash in on consumers’ changed shopping behaviour. One message says that a parcel could not be delivered by Royal Mail and a fee is required for re-delivery via a link. This sends the user to a copycat site that steals payment and personal details. Variations feature DPD, UPS and Hermes.
  • On-line shopping – Genuine businesses say criminals are setting up new versions of their websites under a similar domain to steal customers’ details and cash. Consumers often don’t receive goods, or what they get is inferior quality or not the goods expected. They then find it impossible to contact the company.
  • Travel – A fraud takes advantage of the desire to go on holiday and is related to the new Global Health Insurance Card. As many as 70% of adults don’t know what the rules are, so copycat sites are popping up appearing to give correct advice to help with applications for a fee. In many cases the official service providing information is free, or consumers simply don’t need the documents
  • Covid Cures – Trade watchdogs have seen an increase in mailings from criminals offering health products which are claimed to cure the virus.
  • Entertainment - TV licensing copycats are cashing in on the increased reliance on TV, particularly by the elderly.
  • Financial – Complaints about illegal websites for investments have soared. Criminal sites are mainly cloned from respected investment companies to aid authenticity, but website addresses are slightly different versions purposefully used to trick the customer.
  • Vaccine – Texts claiming to be from the NHS tell the recipient they are now eligible for the vaccination. The message comes with a link to a site asking for personal details and payment. Covid jabs are free and the NHS will never ask for money.
  • Tests – Culprits have been caught selling fake or unreliable testing kits online. The Government provides packs of lateral flow tests free of charge.

If you would like more information about Neighbourhood Watch or wish to set up a local Watch and receive regular safety information, please contact VOGNW@outlook.com.

If you wish to join the Vale Connects Safety messaging service, please contact https://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/our_council/press_and_communications/Vale-Connect.aspx

Crimes can also be reported on the 101 phone line or by emailing Action Fraud on report@phishing.gov.uk

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