Anti-fraud team launched

Anti-fraud team launched

Published at 7:02am 25th July 2015. (Updated at 9:25am 25th July 2015)

North Yorkshire's Trading Standards service is leading a new team to protect elderly and vulnerable people from fraudsters.

The Multi-Agency Financial Abuse Investigations Unit will target issues such as scam mail, doorstep crime, investment fraud, courier frauds and financial abuse by family members or carers.

It's working with North Yorkshire County Council's health and adult services, banks and other financial institutions, as well as organisations including Age UK, the Alzheimer's Society and dementia support groups, to help identify victims and investigate and prosecute offenders.

Ruth Andrews, head of North Yorkshire's Trading Standards Fraud and Special Investigations Team, said: "If we don't tackle the root causes, the loneliness and the isolation, then we are leaving people vulnerable to repeat victimisation. It's about safeguarding as much as it is about pursuit of the crime.

"The adult at risk may be someone with learning difficulties or mental health problems, and we also know many of these frauds target older people."

Based on information seized by the Metropolitan Police in London, the team now has a list of North Yorkshire residents who have answered scam mail.

A 91-year-old woman in Hambleton has lost £200,000 to mail scammers over the last two years, but she thinks the fraudsters are her friends.

She's widowed and lonely, with one distant relative, and doesn't want the letters to stop.

One family, sorting out the house of relatives with dementia who had gone into a residential home, found scam mail products which amounted to losses of £4-500 per week.

They also discovered begging letters from the husband to the scammers asking for more time to pay and telling them about his wife's decline in health.

Acting Detective Inspector Jonathan Rowland, of North Yorkshire Police's Economic Crime Unit, said: "North Yorkshire Police are committed to tackling economic crime and work closely with many agencies to tackle this hugely distressing area of crime.

"We welcome any new initiatives that focus on preventing crime, improving victim care, prosecuting offenders and increasing our residents' awareness.

"Detectives from the force have been seconded on to this new multi-agency team, and will also be working closely with North Yorkshire Police's Economic Crime Unit to become experts in this area of crime and therefore a highly effective part of this new unit."

Anyone who suspects someone is being targeted by financial abusers is asked to contact the Multi-Agency Financial Abuse Investigations Unit via the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.