Fraudsters swindle £5.9million of Suffolk victims in six months
Fraudsters conned Suffolk residents and business out of £5.9million in just six months - costing one victim £758,000, shocking statistics have revealed.
In one horrifying case, a vulnerable customer tried to withdraw £13,000 from TSB in Stowmarket after being threatened with jail and a hefty £50,000 fine by scammers – but was luckily stopped by alert bank staff.
The statistics are being highlighted to raise awareness of the rising level of fraud, with 2,433 Suffolk crimes reported to crime-fighting organisation Action Fraud between October 2017 and March this year.
The biggest single loss in the county was £758,000 through a financial investment, although the largest number of offences – 593 – came from cheque, card and online banking fraud.
Another victim lost £278,000 in a dating scam.
However banks are fighting back against the problem, with £405,438 worth of fraud in Suffolk prevented since October 2017 through the Banking Protocol - a scheme aimed at identifying and protecting potential fraud victims when they visit a bank or building society branch.
TSB is even hosting a series of workshops at its Stowmarket branch to help people understand the issue and stop themselves becoming victims.
Suffolk Constabulary also said it has a dedicated fraud team to tackle the issue but warned investigations can become “protracted” due to the nature of the crime.
Andrew Lisette, manager of the TSB Stowmarket branch, said he was “saddened to hear about more customers and members of the community being targeted and too often becoming victims of fraud”.
He added: “Whether it’s SIM swap, phone spoofing, social engineering or a romance scam, the list is growing and the losses are mounting up.
“Thankfully, banks are pretty good at preventing fraud.
“One story which always sticks with me is a vulnerable customer who came into branch wanting to withdraw £13,000.
“It seemed out of character and after some delicate questioning it transpired they were a victim of a scam claiming to be the HMRC and had been told they would be fined £50,000 or sent to jail if they didn’t follow instructions.
“We used the Banking Protocol to support the customer and save their money.”
In a sign of the impact of modern technology, the Action Fraud statistics show 37% of the 2,433 crimes reported were via a mobile phone – with 12% through online sales and 11% through email.
The first fraud prevention workshop at TSB Stowmarket, in Market Place in the town, is being held on Thursday, December 6 from 10am until noon.
“At TSB, we’re absolutely committed to doing everything in our power to stop fraud where possible and the best way for us to prevent it, is to help the local community spot and stop it at source,” Mr Lisette said.
A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said officers realise fraud “has a significant impact both on individuals and businesses”, adding that they “work hard to understand this and support victims during these long investigations”.
The spokesman added: “Fraud investigations are dealt with in a different way to other forms of crime.
“Reports of fraud are centrally managed at a national level through Action Fraud and the allocation of investigations can sometimes be protracted.
“Fraud investigations can be complex, long running and often involve external financial institutions. In addition, each case will be reviewed to determine whether other agencies such as Trading Standards are best placed to investigate due to their powers or relevant legislation.”
The Action Fraud statistics show that of the 2,433 Suffolk crime reports, just 102 received what it called “crime referrals”.
Of those only seven received “judicial outcomes”, whether that be a charge, caution or community resolution.
However the Suffolk Constabulary spokesman pointed out: “Many of the cases that are encountered are of civil nature rather than criminal and the force uses the Home Office circular to identify priorities to make informed assessment of each case.”
Of the frauds reported in Suffolk, 54% were from businesses and 45% were from individuals.