Essex: Volunteers support vulnerable victims of fraud and scams
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Around 1,800 people volunteer their valuable spare time to help us protect our communities and keep you safe from harm.
Among them are police support volunteers who provide specialist support to various areas of the force. include supporting our digital and forensics teams in the world of cybercrime and our Management of Sexual Offenders and Violent Offenders (MOSOVO) team, working with our Witness Care team and helping out in the Essex Police Museum.
To celebrate National Volunteers’ Week and the vital work our volunteers do all year round, we are highlighting a few of our more unusual volunteering opportunities.
One of those is that of fraud and scam volunteer. We have 13 who work across the county to support vulnerable victims of fraud and scams.
Before last year’s lockdown, our volunteers helped our Fraud Co-ordinators with events in local bank branches, providing fraud prevention advice to customers and reminding them how to shop and bank safely online, to change passwords regularly and to ‘Take Five’ seconds to think before they click to transfer money.
During the pandemic, they adapted their support, posting out fraud packs and ringing victims to provide advice over the phone.
Meanwhile, Barry Linton, one of our volunteers, has been holding Zoom calls with different U3A (University of the Third Age) groups around the county with our Fraud Co-ordinators joining for a question and answer session session at the end.
Barry has been working with our Cyber Prevent and Protect officer for a few years and so had a well-rehearsed training package which was amended so it could be presented online. More than 75 people have been dialling into each session.
He says: “It keeps me very busy as new types of scams are emerging all the time. And, on a personal level, not only has being a volunteer kept me well occupied during an awful time for all of us but the way the sessions have been received by my contemporaries has been very gratifying.”
Each volunteer is kept up to speed with current fraud crime trends and link in with partner agencies such as Essex Trading Standards, which runs the Friends Against Scams scheme.
But their main focus is on vulnerable fraud victims. They will complete a risk assessment over the phone or in person, depending on the current COVID-19 restrictions, and offer reassurance and advice.
And they are looking forward to getting back out on the road, visiting our communities to educate people, make them aware of various fraud and scam trends and promote fraud prevention advice.