Targeting scams that prey on the elderly and vulnerable

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Scams Awareness Month starts today (Friday July 1) and Sussex Police are highlighting how this type of fraud can cause suffering to the elderly who are often targetted.

In Sussex, those over 65 are especially at risk from fraudsters.

Some people are being exploited and intimidated simply because their age and isolation makes them more vulnerable

During the month, Sussex officers, staff and volunteers are joining forces with Trading Standards, the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner and her Elders’ Commission, Neighbourhood Watch and Adult Social Care for a range of preventative measures, including an opportunity for the public to get crime prevention advice Horsham’s Sparks in the Park on Sunday July 10 and an information stand at the foyer in John Lewis and Waitrose, Horsham, the day before.

Detective Chief Inspector Tracy Edwards, lead for Operation Signature, said: “We need to break down the misconceptions which surround the word ‘scam’, that it’s a minor thing and it doesn’t cause damage.

“A scam is a crime that can cause immeasurable pain to the victim. People can lose huge sums of money to clever and manipulative scams and frauds, and that’s not the only cost.

“In Sussex, we see some of our most vulnerable residents losing huge sums of money, but also their confidence, security and relationships with family and those close to them.

“Our new video helps people see the warning signs, which can sometimes be subtle. If you think someone is being targeted and they are elderly or vulnerable call Sussex Police on 101. All others should contact Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk.

“You can also spend some time with friends and family to help them improve their security. Simple steps like installing anti-virus software, using a call blocker device and displaying a ‘no cold caller’ sticker can make a huge difference.”

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, said: “Scams are fraud and fraud is a crime that can ruin some people’s lives. The criminals that perpetuate them often target vulnerable people, including older residents, who may be more trusting and less ‘tech savvy’.

“Last year my Elders Commission talked to thousands of Sussex residents who highlighted real concerns about the potential scale of hidden or un-reported crime against our older citizens.

“Falling for scams was a recurrent theme and we heard about an older resident who was ‘romanced’ out of his savings and also a 92 year old conned into handing over £69,000 supposedly to help a neighbour.

“My Elders’ Commission lifted the lid on older citizens’ concerns about crime and revealed that some people are being exploited and intimidated simply because their age and isolation makes them more vulnerable. That’s why I am campaigning for the crime of Elder Abuse to be made an aggravated offence in line with racially or religiously motivated offences.”

About Operation Signature

The force’s Operation Signature programme identifies and protects vulnerable victims of fraud and scams, as well as preventing these crimes through a number of measures. This includes uniformed visits to those most vulnerable to offer advice and support, supplying trueCall blockers (www.truecall.co.uk) to those plagued by nuisance calls and a campaign including information and training videos.

The team works with banks and other financial institutions and statutory and voluntary partners to improve processes and protect and support the most vulnerable. The programme also shares best practice with other UK forces.

Top tips to avoid fraud and scams

Remember: banks and police will never call or email and ask you to transfer funds to a new account, collect your cards from your home, ask you to buy high value goods and never ask you to hand over cards or money.

Keep your money safe with these tips:

Check people are who they say they are. Not sure? Don’t open the door!

Never send or give money to people you don’t know or trust

Remember to protect your identity – don’t share your personal information with unexpected callers

Beware of email and computer scams. Treat all emails from unknown senders with suspicion and never click on links within them

Never share your PIN number or enter your PIN into a telephone

If in doubt, phone a relative, friend or someone you know personally.