Concerns as fraud and cyber crime rise in Hampshire by nearly 20 per cent

Becki Saunders, who was the victim of a scammer
Becki Saunders, who was the victim of a scammer

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FRAUD rates have repeatedly increased year-on-year sparking a fresh warning that scammers fleece people out of millions.

Action Fraud estimates people in Hampshire lost £22.3m in the year to March 2017 amid a major hike in such crimes.

Now care minister and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has warned the only way to combat fraud is for a huge uptick in vigilance against the cunning scammers.

Speaking ahead of her Scam Smart event at Thorngate Halls in Bury Road, Gosport, on Friday, she said she hopes to show people how to spot these crimes and what to do if they end up falling for them.

She said: ‘The statistics are quite terrifying to read – especially the amount of money that people lose from these scams.

‘It’s estimated that £9.6bn is lost each year in the UK, so it’s important that we take action.

‘Both the police and Citizens Advice have told me that this is a growing crime.

‘These crimes are becoming much more clever and, scarily, more believable.

‘Often the victims are older people and some have even been conned out of their entire life savings – it’s heartbreaking.’

Ms Dinenage said that it’s important for people to share their experiences of scams with one another so that it doesn’t happen to other people.

She said: ‘It’s difficult to eradicate fraud because the tricks are becoming more sinister and more complex – so we need to raise awareness and share advice with one another to try and spot the traps.’

The News’ consumer affairs Streetwise expert Richard Thomson will be at the event on Friday.

Statistics from Action Fraud show that the number of fraud and cyber crimes being committed against people in Hampshire has been rising for the past few years.

Figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of fraud incidents in Hampshire have risen by nearly 20 per cent since 2015.

In 2015, 6,602 fraud offences were referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau by Action Fraud.

But 7,852 incidents were referred in Hampshire last year, up from 6,933 in 2016, prompting concern. A fraud profile said in the year to March 2017, 28 per cent of frauds were enabled by phone and 14 per cent by email.

Fraud victim Becki Saunders, from Southsea, was seduced by con artist Paul Crouch, who pilfered money from her bank account after moving in with her.

Becki said she has learned from the experience and is not only determined to not be caught out again, but wants to make sure others don’t suffer either.

She said: ‘The whole experience has definitely changed me.

‘Now I am slightly more wary of new people and do have a few trust issues; I take people for who they are but have also learned to read tell-tale signs from when someone is being dishonest.

‘I think that’s a very important thing to know when you meet someone new, especially if they could end up being really close to you – people should be careful and know exactly what they’re letting themselves in for.

‘I’d hate to think of someone falling for the same tricks from someone else like him.’

She added: ‘The main issue was being left homeless and having two children to look after.

‘It’s difficult having to fend for yourself and two small people – my son, who was eight at the time, also understood what was going on, so I was very honest with him about it all.

‘My priority was making sure they were clean, dressed and had food on their plates. I was lucky enough to have friends and family there to support me.’

Book a place at Ms Dinenage’s event by calling (023) 9258 3127. The free event runs between 1.30pm and 4pm.