Sussex Police are reminding older people and their families and carers, that it is important to stay on the alert for attempts to defraud them - whether through couriers, doorstep callers, computers and telephones, investment offers, on dating sites, by someone close to them or through bogus inheritance claims.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Saturday (June 15) shows that various types of abuse affect more than half-a-million older people across the UK each year; abuse can be physical, financial, sexual or psychological and all can be a result of neglect. It can occur anywhere - at home, in residential care, even in hospital.
In Sussex alone, in the year to the end of May 2019, there were 1,754 Operation Signature reports with a financial loss to those who were defrauded of over £11,000,000. Seventy-three per cent of victims were over 60 and 71 per cent lived alone. Fraud is a crime type which is particularly prevalent among the elderly population and Operation Signature is the Sussex Police process to identify, protect and support vulnerable victims of fraud within Sussex.
Elderly victims can also fall victim to romance fraud where they seek companionship via dating and other online contact websites. A recent case in Sussex saw an 80-year-old woman defrauded of around £20,000 when she 'lent' money to a man who she believed was genuinely befriending her. You can read more about romance fraud here.
The aims of the day are to both voice opposition to the abuse and suffering experienced by so many people worldwide, and to collaboratively find ways to manage risks of abuse, provide education on ways to prevent abuse and give support to those experiencing such harm.
Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell said: “There are serious long-term physical and psychological consequences of the maltreatment of older people, and this is both underreported and predicted to increase, in-line with the ageing population.
"Sussex Police treats elder abuse as a serious matter, especially where more vulnerable members of the community are targeted. The aims of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day are to both voice opposition to the abuse and suffering experienced by many, manage risks of abuse, provide education on ways to prevent abuse and give support to those experiencing such harm.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I’m really proud of this system established by Sussex Police which has seen huge success protecting our older residents. They are now able to give targeted advice to ensure the public get help and support in identifying potential fraudsters.
“We know that criminal gangs deliberately target our older residents because they may have substantial savings and can be seen to be more trusting. Sadly, when a possible victim is identified their details are often shared with other criminals and so they are at risk of being re-targeted.
"This is why I fund two fraud case workers in Sussex who helped and supported 638 people last year alone. This means that those who fall victim to this heinous crime are offered invaluable emotional support as well as practical advice when it is most needed.”
Increasingly fraud is becoming more complex and deceptive – Operation Signature follows up reports of any of the fraud types where the victim is vulnerable by providing preventative measures to support and protect them from further targeting. This can include helping them to change their phone number to an ex-directory number, contacting family to suggest Power of Attorney, mail re-direction, offering them advice on call blocking devices and referring them to other support services.
The banking protocol is a reasonably new initiative in Sussex where bank staff are trained to identify customers who are making unusual withdrawals or money transfers. Victims are often after being pressured by rogue traders or phone calls from fraudsters impersonating officials. Staff will ask questions to establish if the customer is potentially the victim of fraud and will make a 999 call to police quoting 'Banking Protocol'. This has been extremely successful in identifying vulnerable victims, preventing financial losses and locating offenders.
In the past 12 months in Sussex, 384 calls have been received from the banks, with nearly 250 crimes recorded and safeguarding concerns raised. Losses to victims in excess of £2,113,530 have been prevented and 21 arrests have been made.
See further information and advice about to prevent fraud of this type on the Sussex Police website. For more information about World Elder Abuse Day click here. For other information about support for elders visit this link.
Author: Tim Mahony