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Hero grandson used simple tricks to save gran from 30 scam callers a day | #romancescams | romancescams | #scams


A security-savvy grandson became an anti-scamming superhero after finding his beloved gran fending off nuisance callers who were hassling her up to 30 times a day.

Furious when he realised his grandma Patsy Lees, 82, who he calls Pansy, was being targeted by unscrupulous cold callers trying to talk her into parting with cash, Charlie Shakeshaft, 26, flew to her defence – signing her up to various call-blocking services.

Delighted when her problems were solved within days, the retired nurse, of Betchworth, Surrey, told her pals and news of Charlie’s scam-scuppering superpowers soon spread – resulting in him launching a community business to help protect consumers.

Charlie Shakeshaft with grandma Patsy Lees, front, and a relative. PA REAL LIFE COLLECT

Charlie, of Clapham, south-west London, who is single, said: “My grandma was getting 30 of these calls a day – which is outrageous. It was back in 2016 and, living on her own, she was horribly vulnerable to that.

“After helping her, I realised we could build a community of like-minded people. There are tools out there to tackle scams and most of them are free, but it’s about awareness and knowing what to do.

“People don’t protect themselves against scammers in the same way they would from their house being burgled.”

Launching Individual Protection Solutions (IPS) in 2017, Charlie got celebrity backing from former England rugby player and Strictly Come Dancing star Austin Healey, who is a company director.

Now, during Scams Awareness Fortnight, a Citizens Advice initiative that runs until June 27, Charlie and Patsy are keen to highlight the simple steps people can take to protect themselves from scams.

Charlie, one of three children, who grew up in Surrey and enjoyed many afternoons with his grandma growing up, said: “We were all very close to her.”

Charlie’s business was inspired by his grandma Patsy’s experience. PA REAL LIFE – STEWART WILLIAMS

He continued: “My mum’s mum, she lived about 10 minutes away and I saw her every week.

“We’re still a close bunch and have a ritual Sunday roast as a family. Even though I live in London now, I still go most weekends.

“My grandma, who is divorced, always either hosted it or she would come to ours. We’re all very close and try and spend as much time together as possible.”

So, when he dropped in on Patsy in 2016, discovering she was being harassed by scam callers, Charlie was livid – and immediately keen to help.

He said: “I went to her house. She was on the phone when I arrived and was clearly getting frustrated and red in the face with whoever the person was calling her.

“As it was my grandma, that person who was making her angry was my enemy straight away.”

Charlie with Patsy, who he calls ‘Pansy’. PA REAL LIFE COLLECT

Luckily, Patsy had not fallen for any of the scams – but had still become a target for nuisance marketing.

“She was being called by people trying to pressure sell to her – trying to push her into investments and lots of schemes,” Charlie said.

“She became hesitant about answering her landline when it could have been her friends, family, or even her grandkids calling, as every time she answered it was someone trying to sell something to her.”

Determined to find a solution, Charlie, who was running his own digital marketing business at the time, quickly Googled how to stop scam calls.

Finding two quick-fire methods, he signed Patsy up for the telephone preference service, which then makes it illegal for anyone to cold call you, and installed a BT landline call blocker, which the phone company provided free of charge.

He said: “The call blocker meant all the legal cold callers had to stop calling her and all the illegal ones were highlighted before the calls came through, so she didn’t answer those.”

Charlie Shakeshaft wants to be at the forefront of campaigning for change. PA REAL LIFE – STEWART WILLIAMS

He added: “Within a week or two, her problem almost completely stopped. She was chuffed and started telling friends about it and asking if they wanted me to get them signed up too. That’s how my business was born.”

Realising most of the public could benefit from cybersecurity solutions in simple, easy to follow language, Charlie formed a business plan.

He said: “It started snowballing and grew very rapidly. Now we have thousands of members signed up.”

Charlie continued: “I believe the majority of people in the UK have a similar problem to my grandma. She’s not vulnerable – she climbed to Everest base camp and is very strong – but she will never have an interest in cybersecurity!

“We want to provide cybersecurity level solutions, in simple human language, so they are available to the masses and everyone can use them – in other words, tech solutions for non-cyber experts.”

Charlie’s dad, who owns a business in the wine industry, then introduced his son to Austin Healey, who also has an interest in tech businesses, and the pair worked together, setting up the website and learning more about the market.

Charlie as a child with his grandma Patsy. PA REAL LIFE COLLECT

“The idea resonated with Austin and he got involved with the business,” Charlie said. “It felt very obvious that the vast majority of people were becoming more susceptible to scams.”

After about six months, IPS Community was incorporated in May 2017 – and, following its launch, now has just shy of 130,000 members.

Meanwhile, Charlie has vowed that while the business is on track to be profitable, they will continue to keep their basic plan free to all users who want it.

He said: “There’s an attitude that cybersecurity is very new and complex and not for normal people.

“We want to be at the forefront of campaigning for change and petitioning the government to take this area more seriously.

“The recent online safety bill only referenced romance scams and investment fraud – but they missed a £1.7bn a year scam industry.”

Charlie Shakeshaft founded IPS after his grandma Patsy was targeted by scammers. PA REAL LIFE – STEWART WILLIAMS

He added: “People need to know that one in three crimes is now a fraud and seven out of 10 frauds originate online.

“We want to raise awareness of a growing problem and help people take steps to protect themselves.”

And while his gran was not taken in by the scammers, it still disrupted her life.

Charlie continued: “It still impacted her life. These calls were stressful for her even though she’s a very strong woman.

“Receiving 30 of these a day would take a mental toll on anyone. We feel protective over our family members and it’s not nice to see that.

“I’m just glad this didn’t happen during the lockdown. If she’d been hesitant to answer the phone when she was isolated on her own in her house, the mental strain on her would have been horrendous.”

Patsy was left feeling distraught by the calls. PA REAL LIFE – STEWART WILLIAMS

Patsy also admits that the calls were really getting to her.

She said: “I never thought of myself as someone who could be emotionally impacted by scam calls, but getting up to 30 a day left me feeling distraught and vulnerable.

“The most frustrating thing was not knowing how I could make them stop.”

She continued: “Now, I am proud to have inspired Charlie and his work with IPS.

“I am a resilient character, having travelled all over the world in my career as a nurse, and having climbed to Everest base camp in my seventies.

“But the calls escalated to the point that I was faced with the dilemma of the very technology I used to keep in contact with my family also being the way in for the scammers.”

Austin Healey (Simon Cooper/PA)

She added: “Faced with a lot of jargon and complex solutions online, it wasn’t until I sat down with Charlie that I understood the preventative measures I could take to protect myself. There are simple steps but without his help, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Educating ourselves against scammers is the key, according to Austin Healey, who said: “We get taught maths, English and science at school, but we don’t get taught how to protect ourselves from what is a new potential evil.

“IPS is about helping people protect their personal data but also protecting them from scams.”

Scams Awareness Fortnight is an annual campaign by Citizens Advice, aiming to create a network of confident, alert consumers who how to spot a scam. This year’s campaign runs from June 14 – 27.

To learn more about IPS Community, go to https://www.ipscommunity.co.uk/





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