Victims of fraud have been warned to be on their guard after it was revealed they’re more likely to be targeted a second time.
The plea came from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin after he was told their details are often put on a so-called “suckers’ list” and sold on the dark web.
The tech savvy commissioner was speaking after a visit to meet officers from North Wales Police’s successful Economic Crime Unit.
He has made protecting vulnerable people one of the top priorities in his Police and Crime Plan which sets out the blueprint for policing North Wales.
Help is at hand from the Economic Crime Unit who can provide call blockers to prevent landline calls from unknown telephone numbers.
The commissioner also revealed that people who fear they have been victims can now call a new hotline, 159, which aims to be a “999 for fraud”.
The 159 number is being trialled by Stop Scams UK, a group of banks and telephone firms and will enable people to speak to their bank instantly about a suspected fraud
The hotline will run for 12 months as a pilot scheme and will save people scrabbling around in a panic for their bank’s phone number if they are worried they have been a victim of fraud.
Mr Dunbobbin said: “These cruel and heartless fraudsters can be very plausible, so it is vital that people are on their guard and are not taken in.
“My focus is on providing help and support to the victims because being on the wrong end of a fraud is a traumatic experience.
“It’s clear that elderly people are often deliberately targeted and essentially groomed over the phone.
“This is a despicable crime because the victims have worked hard, and their savings can disappear after a couple of phone calls.
“The call blocker is an excellent piece of kit that screens incoming calls and blocks unknown numbers so that only trusted callers can get through.”
Detective Constable David Hall, who works for the Economic Crime Unit, is also passionate about safeguarding vulnerable people.
He said: “One of the biggest things that drives me is that very often these victims are the same age as my parents. They could be anybody’s parents and they’re being fleeced out of thousands of pounds.
“Being defrauded over a relatively small amount can have a massive impact on a vulnerable person, it can devastate their life.
“The majority of people who have landlines nowadays are elderly and their names are still in the phone books. These fraudsters will be in pop up offices and they’ll make hundreds, probably thousands of phone calls a day, in addition to sending phishing emails.
“For example, £100 to some people is nothing but to another person who may be a pensioner, it could be all that they have for that month. The fraudster will rely on the victim panicking and being pushed into making a bank transfer to a safe account.
“No bank, government department or police will ever contact you to move your money to a safe account.
“If you ever receive one of these calls, end the call immediately, and wait for five minutes to allow the line to clear, speak to your bank using the trusted number from the back of your card, phone book or go into branch personally if you can. Never be tricked into moving money into a safe account”
“Once somebody has been the victim of fraud, they are more likely to be a victim again.
“Their details will go on a suckers’ list and then sold on the dark web. You can go and look on the dark web and you’ll find people’s details for sale – name, date of birth, postcode, email addresses, passwords, banking information anything that is personal data is valuable to the fraudster.
“It’s previously compromised data and you’ll find peoples card numbers for sale. Card numbers will be offered for sale with a guarantee that they’ll work for so many days and charge a couple of hundred pounds for them, it may take days for the victim to realise a fraud has taken place.
“If they succeed with just one person and they can get any money off them, it’s a good day. It’s gold for them and devastation for the victim.”
Among the innovations Mr Dunbobbin wants to introduce following his election last May is a victims’ panel so that people who have suffered crimes against them, including fraud, can be heard and given the support they need.
He added: “I want to ensure all victims get the support they need to recover from their experience, so having a justice system that takes account of their needs is essential.”
If you have been the victim of a fraud you can report it to Action Fraud via the website, www.actionfraud.police.uk or by ringing them on 0300 123 2040 while people who suspect they have been scammed can also call the new hotline by ringing 159.