For many of North Ayrshire’s older people the telephone is a vital lifeline.

However, it is also increasingly being used by callous phone fraudsters as a means to target vulnerable residents and swindle them out of their money.

Every year many unwitting residents will fall victim to telephone scammers – many of whom are based overseas – or the dishonest salespeople and pushy telemarketers who also use the phone to reach into people’s homes.

Often telephone crooks will brazenly try to con residents out of their cash and personal details or try to trick them into buying products that they don’t need.

Swindlers will often pose as legitimate organisations, such as a bank or another official organisation, in an attempt to lend credibility to their scams.

Others will use high-pressure sales tactics to entice residents to act quickly for fear of missing an alleged opportunity – or alternatively lose money they already have.

And over the past few months some of the area’s most vulnerable residents have been bombarded with hundreds of unsolicited calls.

One vulnerable woman who received more than 860 nuisance calls was also conned out of around £4,500.

Scott McKenzie, North Ayrshire Council’s Protective Services Senior Manager, said: “It’s a big problem.

“People receive these cold calls every day and it is all just a way of conning people out of money.

“Those responsible for these types of scams don’t care about the lasting impact their actions could have on their potentially vulnerable victims and will do almost anything to get their hands on their money.

“It is also important to remember that not all calls people receive from telephone scammers are automated.

“Some are UK-based calls, some are from overseas and there are even local numbers being used.

“Many scammers will simply be given a list of people to call and will be asked to work their way through it.

“Residents should never feel pressured into buying anything over the phone and should never reveal any sensitive information.

“Also, if something sounds too good to be true – it probably is.” But North Ayrshire Council’s Trading Standards Team has now hit back.

They have launched a campaign to pull the plug on telephone scam artists.

Over the past few months, a number of vulnerable residents who were referred to Trading Standards after concerns were raised about the volume of calls they were receiving, have had a ‘call blocker’ installed.

The device, which is fitted by the council’s Trading Standards team, is designed to protect vulnerable residents by stopping nuisance calls before the phone even rings – ensuring only trusted sources can get through.

So far the initiative has already had a staggering impact and over the last few months around 3,810 nuisance calls have been blocked from reaching nine vulnerable residents living throughout North Ayrshire.

Scott added: “This scheme has totally changed the lives of a number of our residents already by making them feel more secure in their own homes and it is great to see the difference it has had on people in a short space of time.” For further information contact Trading Standards on (01294) 324100.