Fraudsters frequently prey on the elderly and most vulnerable resulting in people often losing large sums of money to fake schemes and cons.
Many victims feel ashamed or embarrassed and never reveal to family and friends what has happened and often the volunteers are the only person they can share their story with.
Merseyside Police has a successful economic crime team (ECT) which is committed to investigating fraud, seizing ill-gotten cash and working with partner agencies to recover defrauded cash for victims and has seen significant successes.
But officers know more work needs to be done around preventing frauds happening in the first place and protecting the most vulnerable people from becoming victims.
As a result Detective Inspector Holly Chance from the ECT set up the ‘Fraud Fighter’ scheme.
The Fraud Fighters provide knowledge and experience from their own varied backgrounds. Most commit to around four to six hours of their time in the week and at weekends depending when they are free and available.
Merseyside Police currently have six volunteer Fraud Fighters working in Merseyside Police but a further recruitment campaign just prior to lockdown saw 28 people apply for a position within the team.
After the initial recruitment specialist fraud training is provided to the Fraud Fighters which includes guest and specialist speakers explaining the different types of fraud and prevention that can be put in place to stop it. The Fraud Fighters then start having direct phone contact with victims.
Once a victim is given advice and support and their welfare is checked, one of the main goals is trying to ensure that they do not become a repeat victim which is achieved either through phone advice, fraud prevention literature or sign posting on to other support organisations. Many victims are also contacted by letter, often personalised by the volunteers, focusing on the type of fraud that they have experienced in an attempt to offer more specific information and advice.
DI Chance said: “Due to limited resources many fraud victims previously received no additional support.
“This invaluable service ensures that victims have emotional support giving them the knowledge, confidence and courage to prevent any further attempt of fraud against them.
“Prior to Covid 19, the Fraud Fighters were training and preparing to work in Merseyside, advising and educating the local community on how they can protect themselves from falling foul to scammers and fraudsters. Hopefully the knowledge and experience gained dealing with victims during the pandemic has given them a better insight.
“The hope is that with additional volunteers the Fraud Fighters will continue to grow in size and strength, helping to prevent further losses and victims of fraud.”
Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud you can contact them on 0300 123 2040 or go to www.actionfraud.police.uk
Advice and information about fraud is also available via https://www.merseyside.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud/
FRAUD FIGHTER CASE STUDIES
Gary chose to become a Fraud Fighter because he wanted to make victims feel they were cared about and protected.
He said: “There is a sense of satisfaction that you personally have made a difference in someone’s life and reached out with assurance and support when they have needed it the most.
“Knowing you may have said something or shown some kindness to a victim and they acknowledge that is the greatest feeling you can have and to reflect on, later that day. It has given me a sense of pride and a common identity, having a small, but important role in Merseyside Police.”
Katie, who is studying for a Masters in policing, decided to volunteer to enhance her learning.
She said: “Fraud is something that can affect anyone and can have such a devastating impact, so being able to contribute to preventing fraud and provide support to victims of fraud really appealed to me. I hate the thought of my Nan (who is mid 80s with dementia) being targeted and not being provided with support, so being able to offer that to vulnerable people who may not have a great support network is really important to me.”
Jessica wanted to make a positive impact in the community as well as support individuals who have been victims of fraud.
She said: “I wanted to be a part of the investigative process involving fraud and also be a part of the resolution in preventing the same thing happening again to other individuals. I wanted to do my part in helping the community and building strong relations with the public. I am excited to start engaging with the community more through participating in community events.”
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