‘The people who do this have no soul’ – Victims lift lid on devastation caused by fraud

Fraud victims in South Yorkshire have come forward to lift the veil from a crime that too often goes unreported.

Saturday, 7th September 2019, 7:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 11:54 am

Fraud is often known as ‘the secret crime’ because the victims - who are often vulnerable or elderly - don’t tell the police or sometimes even their families due to shame, guilt or embarrassment.

Even so, an estimated £190bn is reported stolen across the UK every year, including £350m on so-called romance fraud, where victims are targeted because of their loneliness and vulnerability.

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'Fraud - The Secret Crime' a fraud protection event at The Lifewise Centre in Rotherham. Picture Scott Merrylees

A conference to explain what types of fraud are happening in South Yorkshire, including both existing and emerging threats, took place in Rotherham on Friday.

And the event also raised awareness of the telltale signs that a loved one might be being targeted, like Moneygram or Western Union receipts or letters from abroad.

One victim of romance fraud - ‘Penelope’ - had £85,000 stolen after fraudsters targeted her on a tablet computer she had recently been bought by a relative.

Posing as a retired US Army Colonel, the offenders gained her confidence before asking her to transfer money to their accounts.

'Fraud - The Secret Crime' a fraud protection event at The Lifewise Centre in Rotherham. L-R Judith Doxey (SYFR), DS Ruth Penning (SYP), Jayne Owen (Financial Investigator SYP), Steve Smith (True Call), Matthew Cooper (Financial Investigator SYP), Andy Foster (Fraud Protection Officer SYP), Tony Murray (National Fraud Proect Officer), Wendy Clare (SYFR) and Claire Forbes (National Trading Standards Scams Team). Picture Scott Merrylees

Despite the fact the theft is still affecting her health, Penelope’s bravely attended the conference on Friday to share her experiences.

Andy Foster, South Yorkshire Police’s fraud protect officer, said: “The people who do this have no soul, they bleed people dry, leave devastation behind them and move on to the next victim.

“It is the victim’s stories which stay with you. I will take them to my grave with me.

“One had two strokes as a result of the fraud. We found 17 bin bags of letters at his house, one third of which were postal fraud.

'Fraud - The Secret Crime' a fraud protection event at The Lifewise Centre in Rotherham. Picture Scott Merrylees

“Four victims have told me that if I told their son or their daughter they would take their own life. Fraud kills.”

"This event is all about raising awareness of the different types of fraud people here in South Yorkshire could fall victim to.

“It's also to highlight there's no shame in being a victim of fraud. In my role I have supported hundreds of victims of crime and they come from all walks of life.”

For more information visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.