East Sussex County Council is urging people to fight against scams this leap year.
A series of information events are being held across the county to raise awareness of National Safeguarding Day on Monday, February 29.
It is hoped the event will stop other people falling prey to con artists after one pensioner from Robertsbridge lost £12,000 to a scam offering to buy tickets for European lotteries on his behalf.
The company claimed it was able to increase Jeremy Ross’ chances of hitting the jackpot.
“To start with it seemed okay but then they started with a very high pressure sales talk,” said the 76-year-old.
“By the time I realised what was happening, it was too late.
“I can’t believe I was so naive but they were very persuasive.
“These people are diabolically cunning and you have to be wary – people need to be educated about what’s happening and if they get a call like this, just put the phone down.”
More than half of over 65s believe they have been targeted by fraudsters through telephone, email or postal scams costing the country £9bn but it is estimated fewer than five per cent of victims report their experience.
Other examples of scams in East Sussex include:
An elderly lady living near Brede spent thousands of pounds on clairvoyant scams, where fraudsters tell the victim they have foreseen something in their future and ask for money to provide a full report.
An Eastbourne resident lost thousands after sending away for over-priced items such as vitamin tablets in the false hope that he would win money in a prize draw.
A Crowborough resident was paying hundreds of pounds to a company running a bogus prize draw in the hope of winning money to give his daughters.
East Sussex County Council’s Trading Standards team is joining forces with adult social care and community safety colleagues to mark National Safeguarding Day on Monday, February 29.
It is supported by the National Scams Team, East Sussex Fire and Rescue and Sussex Police.
To mark the event – aimed at urging people to report abuse in all its forms – Trading Standards officers will be present to offer advice at a series of events across the county during the week.
Cllr Chris Dowling, county council lead member for community services, said: “Scams take a terrible toll on victims who are often elderly or vulnerable – not just financially but psychologically and emotionally.
“It’s vital that we do whatever we can to raise awareness of this crime, to encourage those who’ve fallen victim to come forward to get the support they need and to prevent others from being scammed.”
Telltale signs of scams include receiving phone calls, letters and emails out of the blue, being asked to send money to claim a prize or people being told of ‘winnings’ for a competition they didn’t enter.
Uninvited doorstep callers, pressure selling, being asked to share personal details and offers that seem too good to be true should also set alarm bells ringing.
Trading Standards officers will be on hand at events at the following locations and times:
Monday, February 29, from 10am to 2pm – Hastings Priory Meadow Shopping Centre;
Tuesday, March 1, from 10am to 2pm – Bexhill Library;
Thursday, March 3, from 10am to 2pm – Eastbourne Arndale Centre;
Friday, March 4, from 9am to 11am – Lewes Library;
Friday, March 4, from noon to 2.30pm – Forest Row Community Centre.
Anyone who suspects a scam or thinks they or someone they know has fallen victim is asked to call the Citizen’s Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.
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