Some of you may have read some of the recent news about fraud and how organised criminal groups are targeting people, with a focus on the elderly.
Despite what you may have read about Action Fraud, which was created by the Home Office and overseen by the City of London Police, where there has been criticism, for the police and the community, there is an important need to identify potential victims nd safeguard these.
When fraud does occur to an older person, the effects are devastating. Not only have they invariably lost a lot of money, they feel they have been at fault by falling into a trap.
The economic loss is something that victims will not recover from if they are past their working life, because they can no longer earn more money to replace any loss.
The common feeling of it being their fault will lead to an underreporting of these crimes too, so the estimate cost to the country is probably not accurate at all and the figures will be much higher.
In the area I work there were some recent fraud crimes. Fortunately, in this series of crimes, only one victim lost money.
Unfortunately, the victim was an elderly man, whose money was all in his bank – safe you would think. Therefore, the loss of in the region of £5,000 was huge and life changing.
Not only is there economic impact, there is the further impact to health, where anxiety about not being able to now afford essentials occur. It can lead to serious illness.
The fraud in this case was simple to execute; it involved the victim receiving a phone call from someone pretending to be a police detective, where they informed the victim that they were investigating a criminal group involved in fraud.
The caller would request the help of the victim, by telling them that they were from the Metropolitan Police and they had identified the people committing the fraud. They wanted the victim to go to their bank and withdraw money, where the fraudsters were staff at the bank, who were involved.
Victims were asked to leave their phone off the hook while they went to the bank. They had instructions to ask the staff to place the money in a sealed paper envelope for forensic reasons.
Lastly, they were told to return home, where someone would be around to collect the package containing the cash, which was needed for forensic purposes.
The caller had already asked the victim for their address and they had been instructed to tell no-one about the call, in case someone alerted the bank or police, where the `plan` would then fail.
Where these scams work, someone does call to pick up the money, often in a taxi, but not one of the main taxi companies, where you are asked for your name, phone and bank details. They will often use an Uber taxi service.
Of course, once the money has gone, you will never see it again and you will phone the telephone number or police station you were told is dealing, and the phone number is not real, or you will find out that the police detectives names are false – too late at this stage unfortunately.
The reason why the phone is requested to be left off the hook while you go to the bank, which is often in excess of one hour, is to ensure that the victim does not use their phone to check with a neighbour or family, because quite often elderly people may not have a mobile as an alternative.
It also keeps the criminal connected to the victim, so they can be relatively reassured that they are doing what they have been asked.
Only last week I attended one of these calls. It was a close shave for the victim, where they had done as instructed and withdrawn £5,000. If it wasn`t for the victim`s daughter dropping in to see her father as she does each day, they money would have gone.
It was lucky that the victim returned just before his daughter came to visit and she asked why the phone was off the hook. She then spoke to a male and asked some good questions, where the criminal put down the phone, realising they had now lost the opportunity.
For me, as an experienced police officer, it was quite surreal, speaking to someone and seeing the money, ready to be stolen. It really did underline the importance of speaking to your family and neighbours about these frauds.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Station.