THE Bishop of Oxford has praised a West Berkshire church for its ‘Protect the Elvs’ campaign to fight ruthless scams and fraudsters.

The Rt. Revd. Dr. Steven Croft exclaimed: “Great!” on hearing that the Revd. Dr. Marion Wood is leading the project at St. Mary’s Church in Shaw-cum-Donnington.

Bishop Steven added “Many thanks!” as he wished it success.

Revd. Wood said the ‘Elvs’ were the elderly, lonely, and vulnerable in her North Newbury parish, but stressed that everyone was a potential target, and named her church as a perfect example.

The rector revealed that fraudsters had tricked her bank four times into releasing money from the St. Mary’s account.

A public meeting, with expert advice from police and a bank official, plus 3,000 awareness leaflets spread across the community, will feature in a major warning that conmen are queuing up to dupe people into parting with their money and confidential bank, and credit card details.

Revd. Wood emphasized that the campaign was not for her church members alone, but for the entire community and beyond, wherever support was needed.

A St. Mary’s member, who is helping to run the project, said: “We believe that churches have a duty to be involved in serious public issues, and not limit themselves to internal social functions.

“No-one should feel neglected or frightened because they live alone. Our church is there for them as a friend, and always ready to help.”

He added that “anyone from anywhere” would be invited to attend special monthly meetings at St. Mary’s to discuss personal concerns, and take advice from visiting speakers.

Angela Money, indefatigable chairman of the Newbury and Thatcham Neighbourhood Watch, echoed the Bishop’s praise, saying: ”This is fantastic. Many elderly people are desperate for this type of help, especially as scams and frauds are increasing all the time.

“More and more elderly people, who live alone, are very happy to chat to ‘cold’ callers and ask them into their home.

“A rogue trader would convince the resident that improvements were needed to the property.

“Sadly, once the resident has agreed for work to be done, the quoted price is often increased, paid in advance, and shoddy work maybe carried out, and possibly left unfinished.

“Anything St. Mary’s can do to help these people will be wonderful.”

Mrs. Money provided names of two experts who could be asked to speak at a public meeting in Shaw to advise residents about the wide range of scams, and how to deal with them.

Mrs. Money will launch the project at the St. Mary’s monthly Lunch Club in the Church Centre on Tuesday, September 24, from 12noon to 2pm.

Age UK has reported that 55 per cent of people aged 65 and over have admitted being defrauded, many of them losing their entire savings in telephone scams, bank scams, email scams, doorstep scams, and cyber scams.

Age UK is kindly providing copies of its exceptional booklet ‘Staying Safe’ which can be obtained by contacting St. Mary’s Church office on 01635-40450.