Sussex Police are reminding local residents about a web chat on Operation Signature, the force scam mail campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of postal scams in Sussex.
It happens today and between midday and 1pm, the Sussex Op Signature lead, PC Bernadette Lawrie, will be answering your questions on scam mail and the Op Signature campaign.
The campaign, which launched last month, aims to raise awareness of scam mail fraud, publicise the recognition that victims of scam mail are victims of crime, and encourage reporting on 101 or by email to protect potential vulnerable victims.
Since then, there has been huge increase in the volume of scam related incidents being reported to police.
Many of the calls have come from concerned relatives, neighbours and those working with the elderly communities who are aware of the scams and seek police guidance and advice to support them.
For many vulnerable people, the bombardment of scam mail results in fear, severe financial difficulties and ultimately a decline in both physical and mental health.
Chronic victims of scam mail are hounded by numerous criminal organisations – after replying to the first ‘tempter’ letter, victim’s names and addresses are put on a target list - these lists are then sold to other criminals all over the world.
Over the past six months local officers have spoken to more than 900 people across Sussex, who had been named on a seized list. From the visits they found that over 400 of these elderly vulnerable people had lost a total of more than £2 million pounds.
PC Bernadette Lawrie said, “The majority of the identified victims were between the ages of 80 and 90 and almost all of these had not recognised that they were victims of fraud.
“We have seen some really tragic cases where some elderly victims have lost their entire life savings and others that are sending the majority of their pensions to the scammers rather than buying food and heating their homes.
“Sadly we have seen victims with declining health, suffering from anxiety, depression and some cases even attempted suicide.
“Everyone has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable people who may have been targeted by this type of crime.
“Signs to look out for include receiving large quantities of mail or catalogue products, sending money to claim prizes, being secretive about finances and post.
“Neighbourhood Policing Teams have been proactively seeking out these vulnerable members of the community to protect and prevent them from becoming subject to further financial loss - victims who may not otherwise have been identified without this type of campaign.”
Anyone with a question about scam mail, how Neighbourhood Policing Teams have been helping victims, or questions about the campaign, join in the live chat on www.sussex.police.uk/whats-happening/scam-mail-op-signature or through Twitter @sussex_police