A national scheme, adopted by Sussex Police just 18 months ago, aimed at preventing elderly and other vulnerable people falling victim to fraud across the county, has prevented £528,083 being stolen in just one month
In October 2018, there were 35 calls to Sussex Police from banks and other financial institutions under the Banking Protocol, about potential victims with an average age of 75. In each case police responded and succeeded in ensuring that the person did not hand any money over.
These interventions related to 27 identified reports of fraud which included five reports each of; romance fraud, rogue trading, courier fraud and computer software service fraud. There were four attempts at financial abuse by a person known to the victim, plus two attempts at investment fraud and one at inheritance fraud.
PC Bernadette Lawrie, Surrey and Sussex Police Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer, said; “This means that more than half of all attempts at this particularly unpleasant type of crime are being intercepted and prevented as a result of our liaison with bank staff.”
The Protocol has been a success since its launch in Sussex in June 2017. The volume of calls from banks has steadily increased, along with the number of arrests and financial loss prevented, together with the confidence of staff in both banks and police to deal positively with these incidents.
Staff in financial institutions have been trained to identify customers seeking to make unusual withdrawals or money transfers. They 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”.
In most circumstances, the withdrawal will have been attempted under emotional duress after personal contact with an offender.
Since June 2017 433 such calls have been received by Sussex Police from banks and £2,478,761 has been saved from being defrauded.
A recent case shows how the Protocol can work.
In June this year, a 89-year-old man went to a Lloyds Bank in Brighton, with a younger woman. The bank staff contacted the police as they were concerned about the recent changes in his habits, cash withdrawals on his account and the apparent pressure he was being put under by the woman.
It transpired she had already received over £10,000 of his money and on 10 October the woman, Lisa Hollings, 36, of Fitzherbert Drive, Brighton, appeared at Lewes Crown Court where she pleaded guilty to theft, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment plus an additional two years for breaching a previous unrelated Community Order.
She had known the victim for three years and claimed that she helped him out day to day and that he was helping her out with money and that she was going to pay back the money.
But officers discovered that in fact she had befriended the victim after his wife died and had gradually taken money from him under the guise of helping her out with every day expenses. She then secured use of this cheque book.
In Sussex this process dovetails with the force’s Operation Signature, because following a call from the bank, police attend and always take positive action in crime recording and taking further action to safeguard the victim.
Further valuable support comes from two case workers, funded by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (SPCC) Katy Bourne, and working through Victim Support, who support vulnerable victims who have been systematically targeted by criminals in this way, following up on referrals from Operation Signature,
- Be wary of any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from the police asking for your personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money.
- If you are approached, or feel something is suspicious, hang up the phone and don’t reply. Then report it to Action Fraud and your bank on their advertised number.
- Never send or give money to anyone you don’t know or trust; check people are who they say they are; don’t share your personal information; make decisions in your own time; and if in doubt phone a relative or a friend.
Operation Signature is the Sussex Police campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud across the county. Fraud is becoming more complex and deceptive, and much of it is targeted at vulnerable and elderly people.
The force has a process for recognising victims of all fraud as victims of crime and 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.
Help us keep Sussex safe
Seen something suspicious or have information about a crime or incident? Please contact us online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 101.
Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org