Almost half of those approached by scammers are over 55s, with many finding themselves on so-called “suckers’ lists” which trigger hundreds of mailshots a week from overseas rogue operators.
Last month, the Metropolitan Police closed five virtual offices used by direct mail scammers and seized thousands of letters in a major clampdown on rogue operators.
Now, the National Fraud Authority has set up a dedicated email address where potential victims can forward any scam emails they receive.
People receiving scam emails are being urged to visit the Action Fraud website, www.actionfraud.org.uk/, where there is information on where to forward their scam mail. The emails received by Action Fraud will also be forwarded to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau run by the City of London Police for collation and analysis.
This, it is claimed, will enable crucial intelligence to be gathered and preventative action to be taken. The activity will seek to disrupt the fraudsters and close down the links between them and the victim.
Dr Bernard Herdan, chief executive of the National Fraud Authority who runs Action Fraud, said: “This is the first time we have been able to collect and analyse scam mail and emails in this way. Collecting intelligence is the key to us being able to disrupt the activities of fraudsters and target their networks for closure.”
Age UK and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are also trying to raise awareness of the issue, with the Scamnesty 2011 initiative.
Age UK has launched its ‘Older People and Crime Initiative’, which involves training volunteers to advise on issues such as scams by visiting older people in the community.
Helena Herklots, services director at Age UK, said: “Although crime against older people is less likely than other age groups, people in later life can be an attractive target for scammers. Fortunately, a lot of scams can be avoided, provided people have the right information and advice, and know what to look out for.
“Age UK has produced two free information guides ‘Avoiding Scams’ and ‘Staying Safe’ which warn people of the most common scams and provide practical steps to ensure older people are able to protect themselves against this type of crime in the home and on the doorstep.”
Michele Shambrook, operations manager of Consumer Direct, commented: “We want older people to recognise the warning signs, and feel confident enough to seek advice from friends and family or organisations like ours.”
Meanwhile, a campaign group called Think Jessica – named after an 83-year-old woman whom her daughter claims was hounded to death by mail fraudsters – is launching a new initiative dubbed “The Silence of the Scams”.
The group, which is backed by the likes of The Met, British Gas, CrimeStoppers and the Trading Standards Institute, claims that most scams go unreported because thousands of victims do not see themselves as such.
The initiative aims to raise awareness of the dangers of scam mail, provide support to those who need help and push the Government to create new legislation to protect those chronic victims who are over trusting, suffer from social isolation or declining mental health. Visit www.thinkjessica.com for more details
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