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Surrey Police support older and vulnerable people through best practice scheme

Press release   •   Jul 17, 2019 20:04 BST

Surrey Police recently launched a best practice scheme - Operation Signature - to identify and support older and vulnerable people at risk 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 introduced a process for recognising that victims of all fraud are 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. Each older or vulnerable fraud victim is visited by a uniformed police officer to reassure and support them.

Alongside Operation Signature a rapid response agreement between local banks and Surrey Police has prevented 109 potential victims in Surrey from being defrauded out of £908,332 since its introduction in August 2018.

This process, the banking protocol, trains bank staff to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and try to prevent them from withdrawing cash to give to a fraudster, after which they can request an immediate police response to the branch. In most circumstances, the withdrawal will have been attempted under emotional duress after personal contact with an offender. A total of seven arrests have been made so far by Surrey Police through the initiative in 2019. The average age of a victim was 75 years old.

Bernadette Lawrie BEM, Financial Safeguarding Officer for Surrey Police says: “Being the victim of fraud can have long-lasting and devastating effects on older and vulnerable people so it’s good to see Operation Signature, and the introduction of the banking protocol alongside it, are already starting to prevent people becoming victims of this callous crime.”

Police always advise:

- 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.

Bernadette Lawrie adds: “We want to spread the word and share our advice among Surrey’s older residents and family, friends and neighbours are really key to this. In fact we know that 312 attempts to commit fraud failed thanks to alert residents, family members and banks. Please pass on our advice that the police and your bank will never ask for your money, your PIN, your password or your personal details”

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