BUSINESSES and organisations are being urged to sign up as 'friends against scams' in a bid to tackle the activities of scammers.

An estimated £3.1 million is lost to scammers every year in the Dudley borough alone, according to council figures, with the elderly and vulnerable particularly affected.

Dudley Council’s trading standards department launched a scams unit over a year ago to tackle the problem and the team is now asking for the help of businesses, voluntary groups and residents to stop criminals and protect victims.

The group have launched a National Trading Standards (NTS) online course to raise awareness of the types of scams, the warning signs of someone falling victim and what to do if someone has potentially been targeted.

The course can be found on the Dudley Council website, is free to use and takes around 20 minutes to complete.

Councillor Cathy Bayton, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "As a SCAMbassador for the authority I’m passionate we do all we can to put an end to this criminal activity taking place right on our doorstep.

"There’s big money in this for scammers and they are well-rehearsed at manipulating the most vulnerable in our communities, often stripping people of their life savings.

"This is not acceptable and it’s why the work of our scams unit is so valuable."

She added: "To support their efforts, all we ask is for people to take 20 minutes out of their day to complete the course as the better informed they are, the more likely they are to stop someone, whether it’s a family member, friend or client, falling victim to a scam.”

To report a potential scam, call the Trading Standards’ scams unit on 01384 818871.