Scam victims get help from officers

SCAM victims around Bognor Regis who have sent up to £300,000 to conmen are being helped by the police.

A total of 13 elderly individuals have been given advice by officers to break their cycle of being in thrall to the crooks.

The details of the actions were reported by Inspector Nick Bowman to the annual meeting of the town’s Neighbourhood Watch Association last week.

He said one person being helped was a 93-year-old Pagham man. He was receiving 30 letters a day from the scammers asking for money.

“We are making visits to his house to keep him away from the scams. He has sent large sums of money to them.

“We can’t stop the mail being delivered to his house. It will only stop when those behind the scams believe he has died.

“If he doesn’t respond, they try phone calls instead. He received four phone calls from the scammers before 10.30am one day.”

Police obtained the details of victims in the Arun area after a Met Police raid on a freight container full of the mail at Heathrow Airport last year.

This revealed 100,000 addresses. Of those, 160 were in the Arun district.

Almost a third – 48 –had sent some money. But 13 had become what Insp Bowman termed chronic victims. They had parted with sums which ranged from £1,000 to about £300,000. It is typical to receive up to 600 letters a month.

“The letters they receive become their be all and end all,” he said at last Thursday’s meeting. “This world of scam mail becomes their life and often their social life.”

The action is being taken as part of the Think Jessica campaign by Sussex Police, which the Observer reported last January.

It is being led in the Arun district by PC Bernadette Lawrie. Her hard-hitting film about the effect of the scams was shown at 
the meeting.

The letters which are sent use all sorts of cons to prise money from the victims.

They claim to be from clairvoyants, lottery organisers or catalogue firms offering overpriced goods to enter a competition.

Most come from overseas. Insp Bowman said many originated from Australia, the Netherlands and North Africa.

“It will take time and money to find those responsible but, with the political will and the funding, it could be done,” he said.

Anyone who is subject to fraud or a scam should contact Sussex Police on 101 or 0300 123 2040 or go to www.actionfraud.police.uk