One national number to report scams and tougher sentences for fraudsters who deliberately target the elderly were both backed by attendees of a Sussex summit on elder exploitation.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne hosted the packed summit at Brighton’s Jubilee Library, which was the first of one of four ‘Listen Live’ events across the county.
The audience at last Thursday’s summit heard from speakers from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, Age UK, Barclays, Moneygram, Sussex Police, and Sussex Neighbourhood Watch.
The debate considered what banks and financial organisations are doing to monitor large transactions made over the counter, as well as whether Royal Mail has powers to limit its handling of fake mail from overseas.
The audience in the room and watching online were invited to vote on issues including whether there should be one national number to report fraud and scams, and whether anti-fraud messaging should be clearer and supported by national campaigns, both of which received strong support.
There was also resounding backing for a call for tougher sentences for fraudsters who deliberately target the elderly.
Mrs Bourne said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for many of the bodies involved in protecting our elderly residents both in Sussex and nationally to share ideas on what can be done to tackle the epidemic of elder exploitation.”
She added: “Our survey found that residents want to see clearer messaging between the different statutory agencies as well as better collaboration so that’s what we are working towards.
“We want to see financial exploitation of older people treated as a serious and harmful crime. People need to be aware it’s a crime, not just dismiss it as a silly scam or to think that they’re at fault in some way. Whether it is called fraud or a scam, the consequences for the victim are the same.”
Sussex Police’s Operation Signature has received national recognition for its approach to follow up on reports of unwelcome or suspicious phone calls, emails, or unwanted doorstep visitors, particularly aimed at elderly residents.
Police, PCSOs or victim support workers visit and offer advice, including ways of resisting further approaches, and police also work with local charities including Age Concern and Brighton-based Time to Talk Befriending.
Chief superintendent Lisa Bell said: “I am delighted to have been able to take part in the event, which clearly attracted so much public attention and concern.”
She added: “Sussex Police remain committed to protecting those who are most vulnerable and pursuing those who prey on the elderly to abuse and exploit them for their own personal gain. It is encouraging that there is a strong desire for all organisations to come together with the common aim of raising awareness of these crimes, making it harder for victims to be targeted and ensuring that criminals are deterred.”
Louise Baxter, team manager at the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said: “Scams and fraud do huge damage to our society, particularly people in vulnerable situations who are deliberately targeted by criminals. Scams defraud people and – in addition to the financial damage – many victims are left feeling socially isolated, often too uncomfortable to tell their friends and family what has happened. It is time that we took a stand against scams.
“This event in Sussex has helped to raise the profile of scams and fraud and highlight those people that are victimised by these criminals.
“Friends Against Scams aims to tackle the lack of scams awareness by providing information to enable communities and organisations to understand scams, talk about scams and convey messages throughout communities about scam prevention and protection. I’d encourage anyone interested in stopping scams to visit the Friends Against Scams website friendsagainstscams.org.uk and sign up.”
Laura Flack, head of scam prevention at Barclays, said: “Every day people of all ages, not least the elderly, are being targeted by fraudsters and our number one priority is keeping them safe.
“As well as investing heavily in our own fraud prevention and education activities, we’re committed to working with the authorities, banks and communities so that by joining forces to raise awareness and launch collaborative initiatives like the Banking Protocol, we can find the best ways to protect customers and put a stop to this crime.”
Keith Sharp, head of EMEAAP law enforcement liaison for Moneygram, said that each month MoneyGram, a founding member of Scam Awareness.org, prevents tens of millions of dollars of suspected fraud activity through its fraud prevention and monitoring.
He added: “We work closely with law enforcement and take their intelligence and threat assessments very seriously. If we detect illicit activity we have a number of tools we can use, such as preventing those involved from using our system, increasing our consumer and agent education, and notifying law enforcement.”
John Wright, chair of Sussex Neighbourhood Watch, encouraged all organisations involved in fighting back against fraud to work closer together and to build stronger open relationships.
He reaffirmed the commitment of Neighbourhood Watch to support and help protect the whole community, to play a key part in helping to keep Sussex safe, and especially those most at risk of becoming victims of crime.
To report fraud call Sussex Police on 101 or visit www.sussex.police.uk
Victims can also contact Action Fraud who will be able to share information to stop others falling victim, by calling 0300 123 2040 or head to www.actionfraud.police.uk
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