A community-led approach to preventing fraud

Co-designing a scalable approach to fraud prevention with Neighbourhood Watch
Photograph of a Neighbourhood Watch sign in a residential area

Fraud has a huge impact on people’s lives

Firstly, there’s the financial impact. A 2013 estimate by the former National Fraud Authority put total losses for individuals at over £9 billion per annum in the UK.

Secondly, the psychological effects can be debilitating and include shame, anger, loss of self-esteem and depression. A study of doorstep crime showed that victims’ health declines faster than non-victims of a similar age. The knock-on effect can mean people going into care homes, and even dying sooner.

Analysis of the effects of doorstep crime found that:

  • 40% of victims said it had led to them feeling less confident generally
  • 28% said it had left them feeling down or depressed
  • 46% said it had caused them financial harm
  • 16% had not told anyone about the crime
  • 40% of them said the reason was embarrassment

Taking a community-led approach to fraud resilience

Neighbourhood Watch is the largest voluntary crime prevention movement in England and Wales, with a membership upwards of 2.3 million. Many associate it with helpful ‘curtain twitchers’ reporting burglaries in their local area. 

But their work goes way beyond this; in fact, they see their remit as being a broader commitment to fostering wellbeing and connection within communities. 

NHW came to us looking to extend their reach, as well as their ability to create resilient communities through addressing fraud in a way that could easily be adapted to the different infrastructures and needs of varying types of community.

A systems approach to tackling fraud

We started by mapping the system of support around the people affected by fraud and analysing the data on these types of crimes. This helped us get an understanding of who’s doing what to help tackle the problem. 

Older and vulnerable people weren’t the only potential users of the solutions we would develop. Volunteer groups, the police, and a range of bodies that collect data on where and when scams and fraud are taking place would also be involved. 

After conducting desk research, we kicked off the project with a co-design workshop with people who had been victims of fraud and local NHW volunteers. 

Next, we conducted contextual interviews, visiting elderly residents in their homes with the support of local volunteers so they felt safe. We undertook research in areas outside of the Aylesbury area where our work was also focused. It was important to ensure that what we were designing was scalable to different regions of the country.

Developing a community-led care service model

We developed 10 concepts in collaboration with the volunteers, looking at the existing support system and knitting together new relationships where existing strengths could be capitalised on. We pulled the concepts together into an overarching service model.

The concepts included:

  • ID Badges, calling cards and official email addresses – so volunteers could develop credibility and trust when visiting people at home.
  • A contact list from the police to link up NHW groups with partners, such as Trading Standards, that provide information and training on fraud.
  • Videos of people who are happy to share their experience of fraud in order to spread awareness and reduce stigma.
  • Creating the ‘Scam marshall’ role – a volunteer who’s been targeted before and keen to support others to recognise and report scams.
A photograph of Neighbourhood Watch branded calling cards for volunteers to use when visiting people

Delivering a pilot to test the designs

We tested the new service over 12 months, providing a framework to measure success and facilitate continuous improvement based on results. 

The pilot was assessed by external evaluators and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive: they found that the programme and design had reduced embarrassment and increased openness and dialogue in the area. There was greater awareness, both of potential scams and who the most vulnerable in their community were. 

The evaluators also confirmed that giving volunteers responsibility and ownership through the co-design process developed a sense of having a stake in the delivery of the service.


A photograph of a Neighbourhood Watch information leaflet about fraud titled ‘Working together against fraud’
Information leaflets can be read at residents' convenience

Communities that Care: a scalable, proven solution to tackling fraud

Taking a user-centred approach helped the organisation to join the dots within the system. Establishing links with partners such as Trading Standards, the police and banks’ fraud prevention teams identified how untapped resources within the community can supplement and strengthen these official channels.  

After the success of the pilot, NHW has been building on the training and materials we developed with them, adapting the approach for different communities’ needs. 

Much of the scalability of Communities that Care is due to this adaptability. The scheme is getting traction in areas where, historically, there’s been less engagement with NHW.  

Rural villages felt they were tight-knit and looking out for each other anyway, and inner city dwellers perhaps felt that the traditional stickers and links with the police might attract, rather than deter, crime. Groups like these acknowledge that the problem of people being targeted at home via their phones and computers was more insidious. 

Getting help from a trusted organisation to capitalise on local volunteers’ desire to protect their elderly and vulnerable neighbours overcame these reservations, and the accessible training and materials are an easy way to make a positive impact fast.


Neighbourhood Watch’s vision for caring, connected communities

Far from slowing down during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the Communities that Care work has gone from strength to strength, with volunteers adding fraud prevention materials to the deliveries of food, medicine and other supplies to those shielding at home. 

Training in fraud prevention for volunteers has been delivered online, and there are plans to adopt a blended approach of face-to-face and online support when it’s safe to do so.

Communities that Care has been such an important part of NHW’s work that ‘maintaining a caring community’ has been added to their strategic aims.