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Archers ‘fraud’ storyline praised

Scriptwriters worked with Radio 4’s consumer programme You and Yours on fraud plot.

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Anti-fraud campaigners have praised a partnership between two BBC Radio 4 programmes for drawing attention to one of the UK’s fastest growing crimes.

For months a number of The Archers’ characters have been caught up in an elaborate investment fraud.

Archers editor Huw Kennair-Jones has now revealed that the station’s consumer programme You and Yours worked closely with scriptwriters on the plot.

Action Fraud said the storyline had raised vital awareness of the issue.

“We would like to thank The Archers and You and Yours for bringing attention to this important subject,” said a spokesperson.

Read more: The Archers website explains the Melling Investment Fraud in a Q&A with You and Yours reporter Shari Vahl

The last Archers’ storyline to draw praise from campaigners was the domestic abuse of Helen Archer by former husband Rob Titchener.

This year the soap has tackled another rapidly rising crime.

Image copyright Gary Moyes, BBC Image caption The fraud revolves around the relationship between conman, Matt Crawford (played by Kim Durham) and Lilian Bellamy (Sunny Ormonde)

According to the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales there were an estimated 3.6 million cases of fraud last year, making it the most commonly experienced offence.

‘12% returns’

Police say investment scams are a costly and often under reported form of fraud.

Earlier this year several of the soap’s unsuspecting residents were given a presentation by fraudsters, Melling Equestrian Investments.

The scam involved a love-triangle between husband and wife-to-be Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy, and old flame and conman Matt Crawford.

Among the scam’s victims were widowed pensioner Christine Barford, who was revealed on Friday to have invested more than £300,000.

She had been persuaded to invest by the promise of 12% returns on a fictitious racecourse development in Costa Rica.

‘Partnership’

In an interview with You and Yours, Huw Kennair-Jones, explained how the partnership with the consumer programme evolved.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The fictional scam unravels when the location of the promised Costa Rican racecourse is discovered to be in a National Park

“We needed to hear Matt Crawford again because he’s such a good character,” he said.

“We were thinking about what he would be doing and then producer, Jenny Thompson, had the idea of getting in touch with You and Yours.”

Fortunately, the consumer programme’s award-winning fraud reporter, Shari Vahl, was a life-long Archers fan, and scriptwriters worked closely with her for months.

“Half of all reported crime is fraud so I knew this was important,” she said.

Sworn to secrecy, she told no one about her assignment.

She explained how she helped create the plot: “The producers wanted to make this fraud as real as possible,” she said.

‘Not uncommon’

“I’ve just taken the experience of You and Yours listeners and what’s happened to thousands of people, many of whom have contacted us.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There were an estimated 3.6 million cases of fraud last year, making it the most commonly experienced offence

“They have been convinced enough to invest their pensions, large amounts of money, into what seem like really brilliant schemes,” she added.

Huw Kennair-Jones agrees: “This is not an uncommon thing.

“It’s about people who are not stupid at all who are taken in by the promise of this incredible return that just doesn’t exist,” he said.

Shari Vahl says modern investment fraud can be highly believable.

“Victims are given really fantastic brochures with wonderful pictures and graphs pointing skywards, all run by extremely charming and very credible people.

Shari explained the lengths she and Archers scriptwriters went to to create a convincing plot.

“At one point we decided it would be a good thing to actually call up the Costa Rican horse racing authorities to get a list of their courses – so that’s what we did,” she said.

The scheme unravels when Lilian Bellamy begins to investigate the details and finds they don’t add up.

‘Report or prevent’

Action Fraud, which works closely with City of London Police, told the BBC that people need to be on their guard.

“Never take up offers of investments on the spot from cold calls,” a spokesperson told You and Yours.

“To make safe investments you should first look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart warning list.

“If you have been affected by fraud or would like to know more about how to report or prevent fraud, go to our website,” they added.

You and Yours is on BBC Radio 4 weekdays 12:15-13:00

The Archers is broadcast 19:00-19:15 Sunday-Friday, repeated at 13:00

Business

How to buy Bitcoin, is it safe and what are the cryptocurrencies Iota and Ethereum?

THE cryptocurrency Bitcoin continues to dominate the news as the volatile currency keeps breaking records. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking of investing in Bitcoin or one…

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THE cryptocurrency Bitcoin continues to dominate the news as the volatile currency keeps breaking records.

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking of investing in Bitcoin or one of the other cryptocurrencies…

 Bitcoin is going from strength to strength - but how long can it last?Getty – Contributor Bitcoin is going from strength to strength – but how long can it last?

How do I buy Bitcoin?

The most common way to buy the currency is to download a broker app such as Coinbase and Blockchain.

These allow users to use a credit or debit card to exchange pounds for Bitcoin.

Users do not have to buy whole Bitcoins and can purchase a small percentage that matches the value of their cash investment.

Once a request has been made, online “miners” will decide whether to approve the transaction.

If approved, the money will be taken from a user’s account in exchange for Bitcoin.

When selling, users can use the same app to sell their Bitcoin in return for its cash value.

It is also possible to buy Bitcoin directly from sellers on other websites – bypassing the need for a broker.

There are fewer transaction fees in this case, but the process is a bit riskier and more complicated – especially for a beginner.

Investors can also buy Bitcoins by depositing cash at a nearby Bitcoin ATM.

These have been popping up in newsagents and can be found by Googling them or visiting Coin ATM Radar.

Is it safe to buy Bitcoin?

Anyone thinking of investing in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency should be very careful.

Their values are volatile, with the ability to plummet as quickly as they shoot up.

And investors are frequently targeted by hackers and other criminals who seek to steal their crypto-cash online.

Be especially careful if you are using direct, peer-to-peer platforms to sell and buy cryptocurrencies.

These are the equivalent of something like Gumtree for Bitcoin – you never know who you might be dealing with.

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Make sure you have the right ingredients to prepare a beverage for every guest this Christmas

It’s party season when friends and family love to drop in and have a drop. Here are some fantastic drinks recipes that will help you have a very merry Christmas. Mulled wine – 82p per s…

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It’s party season when friends and family love to drop in and have a drop.

Here are some fantastic drinks recipes that will help you have a very merry Christmas.

 These festive drinks are bound to please your guestsGetty – Contributor These festive drinks are bound to please your guests

Mulled wine – 82p per serving

(Serves 6)

 Nothing screams out Christmas like mulled wineAlamy Nothing screams out Christmas like mulled wine

Preparation time: 5mins

Cooking time: 5 mins

Each serving contains: 136cals (7% of an adult’s recommended daily allowance), 0g fat (0%), 0g sat fat (0%), 10g sugar (11%), 0g salt (0%)

YOU NEED:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 60g demerara sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • grated nutmeg
  • 1 clementine, halved
  • 1 dried bay leaf

METHOD:

  • Put the wine in a saucepan with the clementine, sugar, bayleaf and the spices.
  • Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Taste to see if you want the wine sweeter, and add more sugar to taste.
  • Strain into heatproof glasses and serve at once.
  • For an extra kick you can add in some gin. After taking off the heat add in 60ml of sloe or damson gin

Bucks Fizz – £3.03 per serving

(Serves 6)

 Bucks fizz is so easy to make Bucks fizz is so easy to make

Preparation time: 5mins

Each serving contains: 51cals (8% of an adult’s recommended daily allowance), 0g fat (0%), 0g sat fat (0%), 14.5g sugar (16%), 0g salt (0%)

YOU NEED:

  • 1 bottle Champagne, chilled
  • 1 litre freshly squeezed orange juice, chilled

METHOD:

  • Half-fill 6 glasses with Champagne
  • Carefully pour in the orange juice until the glass is full
  • You can swap champagne for sparkling wine or non alcoholic wine

 Head down to Morrisons to get the ingredients you need Head down to Morrisons to get the ingredients you need

Christmas hot chocolate – 39p per serving

(Serves 2)

 Nothing could be more perfect then downing some hot chocolate on a cold winter night Nothing could be more perfect then downing some hot chocolate on a cold winter night

Preparation time: 8 mins

Cooking time: 2 mins

Each serving contains: 173 cals (9% of an adult’s recommended daily allowance), 9g fat (13%), 5g sat fat (25%), 16.5g sugar (18%), 0.5g salt (8%)

YOU NEED:

  • 200ml full-fat milk
  • 4tbsp drinking chocolate powder
  • 30g dark chocolate, finely grated
  • ¼tsp ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Canned squirty cream, marshmallows and decorations of your choice

METHOD:

  • Place the milk in a saucepan and heat gently until almost boiling hot. Alternatively heat in a microwave on HIGH/100% for 2-3 mins.
  • Meanwhile mix the drinking chocolate powder, grated chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg in a heatproof jug until well combined.
  • As soon as the milk is about to boil, pour it into the jug, whisking with a balloon whisk (or stirring with a wooden spoon) as you do.
  • Immediately pour into cups and squirt a swirl of cream over the chocolate and decorate
  • TIP: Add 2tbsp of brandy or dark rum before heating to warm things up

Brendan Cox launches appeal in memory of his wife Jo Cox encouraging people to share mince pies with lonely neighbours at Christmas

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More than 600,000 hard-up families at mercy of lending ‘sharks’ to cover the cost of Christmas

MORE than 600,000 hard-up families will take out extortionate payday loans to cover the cost of Christmas, a Sun on Sunday investigation can reveal. Some are being tempted into pocketing fast cash …

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MORE than 600,000 hard-up families will take out extortionate payday loans to cover the cost of Christmas, a Sun on Sunday investigation can reveal.

Some are being tempted into pocketing fast cash by festive-themed “introducer sites”, which coax them into the hands of lenders.

 Mum of four Sarah Carty who got stung with interest of 100% on a £600 payday loan she took out to cover the cost of ChristmasNorth News and Pictures Mum of four Sarah Carty who got stung with interest of 100% on a £600 payday loan she took out to cover the cost of Christmas

Borrowers can then be hit with huge interest rates — sometimes DOUBLE the loan amount — leaving them with terrible credit ratings, CCJs and crippling debt if they can’t pay.

The sites either host adverts for regulated loans companies placed by search engines, or pass details on to other genuine lenders with high interest rates.

One, Christmas LoansUK, hosts ads for lenders such as Cashflex.

ChristmasLoansUK owner Nicholas Massey, of Smethwick, West Mids, admitted to “misleading” people.

 Christmas Loans UK appears to be introducing customers into riskier deals Christmas Loans UK appears to be introducing customers into riskier deals

He said: “I’m not an official lender. I’m the middle man taking advantage of Google’s advertising programme.”

Britain seemed rid of Wonga-style payday lending after finance chiefs capped interest on loans of 30 days or fewer at £24 per £100 borrowed.

While this initially saw the number of borrowers fall from 1.4million to fewer than 500,000, the Money Advice Service expects a spike over Christmas.

Another site is MyQuick Loan, run by McCrory Finances Limited.

 Mum of three Debbie Hall took out a £500 loan with Wonga which she struggled to repay due to the high interest rates they chargedNorth News and Pictures Mum of three Debbie Hall took out a £500 loan with Wonga which she struggled to repay due to the high interest rates they charged

It offers a £400 loan for 90 days — outside the FCA’s 30-day cap — with interest of £161.92.

It warns rates could double if the customer is passed to another lender.

Owner John McCrory, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, said: “People know what they’re getting into — it’s clear.”

Mum-of-four Sarah Carty, 40, turned to a payday lender in December 2015.

 Is it taking out a loan this Christmas really worth the risk? Is it taking out a loan this Christmas really worth the risk? Lee Carter Lee is forced to take a payday loan in EastEnders

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