PENSIONERS across Sussex are handing over millions of pounds to criminals through scam mail frauds.
Sussex Police claims to be the first force to have quantified the scale of the fraud in the county.
Criminals worldwide are sending millions of scam letters into the UK, targeting elderly, vulnerable members of our communities.
Working with the Metropolitan Police and the National Scams Hub, set up by East Sussex Trading Standards, Sussex Police obtained a list of potential victims containing the names and addresses of 1,537 people living in Sussex.
Owing to the age group of the victims, many had already sadly died, or moved.
In Operation Signature, over the past six months local officers have spoken to more than 900 people across the county, who had been named on the list. From the visits they found that more than 400 of these elderly vulnerable people had lost a total of more than £2 million.
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.
The Operation Signature campaign is now a permanent feature of local policing with leaflets and awareness visits and talks, starting this week.
PC Bernadette Lawrie said; “It was our recent involvement with a 94 year old local victim that highlighted the despicable nature of this type of criminal activity and the lack of support, advice and recognition currently available for victims and their families.
“He had sent more than £100,000 since 2007 in response to scam mail regarding lottery wins to criminal gangs abroad, making his money transfers through local village Post Offices. He was being bombarded daily with masses of scam mail and telephone calls to his home from criminals demanding money fraudulently.”
Victims of scam mail are now recognised as victims of crime and a standardised reporting and recording process has been introduced, providing preventative measures to support and protect victims from further targeting.
When officers identify a vulnerable victim they provide support to families and carers to put into place some simple preventative measures to stop further targeting and financial loss.
For further information on the background to Operation Signature and how to prevent this type of fraud see the Sussex Police website wwww.sussex.police.uk/help-centre/ask-us/fraud,-scams-and-financial-issues/what-is-operation-signature