A new police scheme to support victims of fraud in Sussex has been launched.
The scheme will see volunteers help support fraud victims across both East and West Sussex.
It was launched by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne at Sackville House in Brooks Close, Lewes, on Friday (December 6).
Mrs Bourne said: “It’s not about patronising people but about acknowledging that scammers are finding it easier to masquerade in our lives by using all our personal information that is often too readily available online.
“By giving people the right tools to protect themselves in the future we hope to significantly reduce the amount of those re-victimised by this crime.
“Volunteers within policing are an essential part of the workings of the Force. They relieve much of the pressure and demand that is placed upon warranted officers and trained staff, allowing them to focus in the areas where they are most needed.
“I know that this scheme was inundated with applications from potential volunteers and this makes me proud to live in a county that has such an amazing appetite to give back.”
Fraud is the fastest growing crime type and there are thousands of victims each year in Sussex, police said.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, there were 13,779 scams reported to Action Fraud – a six per cent increase compared with the same period the previous year – with a total of £28.2m stolen from Sussex residents – a 16 per cent increase.
It is also known that fraud victims are 80 per cent more likely to be re-targeted again in the future, said police.
Now, some 23 volunteers will be officially joining Sussex Police and will work with officers to contact local individuals and businesses who have recently reported scams to Action Fraud.
Each volunteer will be responsible for sending emails or letters, offering tailored prevention advice on areas such as telephone/mobile phone scams, identity theft and online hacking.
Financial abuse safeguarding officer Bernadette Lawrie BEM said: “Under Operation Signature every victim of fraud who is vulnerable will be seen by a uniformed officer but the launch of this new scheme ensures that every victim of fraud is contacted by Sussex Police.
“We would like to see the number of victims and repeat victims significantly reduced and for the public to feel more digitally confident and scam aware.
“They will be contacted by letter or email by fraud prevention volunteers who will provide them with a tailored package of advice specific to their fraud that they have experienced. They will be provided with information, including signposting to local crime prevention events.”
Sussex Police has been working over the last year with partners including local county councils and charities to put the scheme together.
It is soon to begin in West Sussex and then will extend to East Sussex and Brighton & Hove.
Tony Carr, a new volunteer from West Sussex, said: “I wanted to volunteer because this is not a service that has ever been delivered before and I believe that, proactively helping people is a great way to spend my free time. I have a background in technology and I know about computer fraud so I thought this would be a perfect fit for me.”
Safe Space Sussex, the only local online directory of support services, has been updated to include specific advice and details of local fraud awareness events. Now victims will be proactively signposted to this website for help and support.
A spokesman added: “With scams ranging from the simplest confidence trick to the most sophisticated high-tech online fraud, it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest news and advice.”
Source: Bognor Regis Observer