Sussex fraud victim speaks out ahead of summit to tackle exploitation of elderly

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A victim of fraud from Sussex has spoken out about her experience ahead of the first crime summit to tackle the ‘epidemic of elder exploitation’.

Jean Holmwood, 67, from Heathfield, fell victim to an online fraud in 2013.

We know that criminal gangs are deliberately targeting our older residents because they may have substantial savings and can be more trusting.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne

She said of her experience: “I felt pathetic.

“I like to think of myself as being quite on top of things, especially when it comes to computers and the internet, and that’s where I went down. “I was quite disgusted at myself, embarrassed.

“It was only a small amount, it might not have been much for some people but it was a lot for me not having much money in the world.

“It’s just degrading, it’s an insult to your intelligence and you feel so stupid.

“I don’t mind telling people about what happened to me because I’m hoping it will help others, but at the same time most people wouldn’t want to tell anybody because they just feel silly.”

She is now part of the Sussex Elders’ Commission, a group set up in 2015 for older residents to support, challenge and inform the work of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, 
The commission has been working with Sussex Police to find out more about the scale of the problem.

Rob Mills, 76, from Westmeston, who is also a member of the gorup, warned of the potentially ‘life-ending’ effect of fraud.

“It can be devastating. The cases that we have heard of recently involve massive financial loss,” he said.

“Somebody who is elderly, their resources have run out... what do they do?

“The money is gone, their house is gone: it could be life-ending.”

Figures released by Sussex Police showed that elderly people in Sussex lost a total of £4.25m to fraud in the 12 months to the end of November 2016.

The Listen Live crime summit in Brighton aims to find out what more can be done to prevent the exploitation of elderly people.

Representatives from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, Age UK, Barclays, Moneygram and Neighbourhood Watch will attend.

Mrs Bourne said: “We know that criminal gangs are deliberately targeting our older residents because they may have substantial savings and can be more trusting.

“Sussex Police’s Operation Signature has seen huge success helping to protect our older residents from those who seek to rob them of their life savings and potentially of the ability to look after themselves.

“We want to find out what else can be done to prevent this epidemic of elder exploitation.”

The summit – Listen Live: Fraud and Elder Exploitation – takes place on Thursday, 23 March, at the Brighton Jubilee Library from 6pm until 8.30pm.

It is the first of four summits based on the key priorities within Mrs Bourne’s Police and Crime Plan.

Register for the event here

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