(Courtesy of The Bognor Regis Post)
SCAM victims around the Bognor Regis and Chichester area lose £20,000 on average to fraudsters.
Some six out of ten of those who have been conned out of their savings is more than 75, the area’s Citizens Advice help points have revealed.
More than half of those who have approached its three centres live alone.
Citizens Advice was so concerned by the number of people who have been falling victim to the tricks by email and phone it helped to organise its biggest event in the area to raise awareness of the issue.
The 43 delegates from a range of organisations who attended the showcase occasion last Thursday were believed to represent 100,000 people.
The most powerful presentation came from a scam victim, identified only as Sally. She was tricked out of just over £10,000 by an online ‘sweetheart’. The lonely pensioner told those present how the lying romeo spun her a series of lies, deceits and denials to cruelly play on her emotions.
“I feel horrible talking about it now,” she said. “Looking back now, I feel embarrassed, humiliated, sad and very, very angry.”
Her daughter, Helen, spoke of how she found her mother was looking at re-mortgaging her home to send even more money to the fake suitor.
Convincing her two sisters their mother needed help led to arguments. “Crimes like this affect whole families,” she said.
West Sussex County Council also jointly organised the event. Its cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, Cllr Debbie Kennard, said: “We know that every day in West Sussex people are falling victim to fraud, whether that’s online, unwanted telephone calls or doorstep callers.
“Although anyone can fall victim to a scam, we know that the vulnerable members of our community are often highly targeted for these crimes.
“The impact on the victims is not just financial, it is also distressing and has a long-term emotional affect and mental health impact on people’s wellbeing as well.”
Katy Bourne, the Sussex police and crime commissioner, said her elders’ commission of 65-85-year-olds told her the risk of being conned left elderly people more terrified of picking up their home phone than of anti-social behaviour in the streets.
An average of £20,000 was being taken from each scam victim across Sussex, she said. “These criminals are experts in what they are doing. It’s big business to them.
“The more people are taking about it, the more people are educated about it – the better it is.”
Sussex Police’s Operation Signature anti-fraud work, has dealt with 4,000-plus reports in some three years. Bernadette Lawrie, who plays a leading part in the work, said two-thirds were committed over the phone and some one in six by email.
PPI claims, doorstep callers, computer cons, courier fraud and fake tax officials were the most common methods of fraud.