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Working to stop people becoming victims of fraud and cyber-crime

Five member of the Fraud and Cyber Protect Team pictured

There are between 800-1000 reports of fraud and cyber-crime every month in Avon and Somerset alone – these are just the cases that are reported. The National Crime Agency predicts that only 20 per cent of fraud incidents are reported nationally so the real figures are likely to be much higher.

We were one of the first police forces to invest in dedicated fraud and cyber protect teams, committed to providing support to victims of fraud and educating people and businesses to help prevent them becoming victims of fraud or cyber-crime.

The teams provide a proactive response to fraud and cyber-crime by educating the public around any new or specific threats.

Kirstie Cogram – Complex Crime Unit Manager and Avon and Somerset Police lead for cyber-crime and fraud, said:

“We were one of the first forces in the southwest to recruit fraud and cyber protect officers to provide first-hand support to our most vulnerable victims. We have expanded our service as we know that sadly, a high proportion of fraud victims are repeat victims and we know that by providing extra support to victims of these types of crime we can prevent future crime.

“Our fraud and cyber protect officers are available to provide training, advice and guidance to individuals and businesses across Avon and Somerset. They provide new and innovative ways to make sure we get our prevention messages to people who need to know them. You can log in to Facebook or Instagram on Safer Internet Day on Tuesday 7 February to watch a live session with top tips from the team on keeping yourself cyber secure.

“All fraud needs to be reported to Action Fraud to help us understand the true picture across our communities – you can type in ‘report fraud’ on our website to find out how.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “Fraud is so vast and there is so much to consider when tackling this crime. Undeniably, prevention is key, and this forms so much of the work that the dedicated fraud and cyber protect team undertakes. We need to continue to raise awareness about the different types of fraud and what to do if you’re targeted to ensure everyone is as resilient and resistance to scammers’ methods.   

“There’s still so much to do to tackle fraud but Avon and Somerset Police’s fraud and cyber protect team are doing a brilliant job to provide and deliver consistent messaging. We want our communities and, most importantly residents who have already been victimised, to understand this ever-changing crime and how they can prevent themselves from becoming victims.” 

The fraud and cyber protect teams provide talks to many groups within the community including Womens Institutes, Rotary Clubs, care homes, schools and universities. Reaching out to 1,600 vulnerable residents they used the Meals on Wheels network to deliver Christmas cards, which contained information on how to keep safe from fraud.

The team work with partner organisations nationally to make sure they can give the most up-to-date advice. In September, the team worked with the Southwest Regional Organised Crime Unit to hold the annual national safeguarding conference in Bristol, where 38 police forces and partner agencies learned from one another how to help keep victims safe.

The cyber protect team also provide different sessions to parents and children within schools, highlighting the current online threats and how they can best support their children and themselves in an online and digital world.

Businesses are supported with staff cyber aware training, discussing cyber-crime and how each staff member within a business or organisation can do their part to protect their business.

Amy Horrobin, Fraud Protect Officer said, “Many individuals we meet have been talking to a fraudster for a significant amount of time. When we are able to present people with solid evidence that the person isn’t who they say they are, they are more likely to cut contact with these criminals.

“We know fraud can be a scary topic, but it’s rewarding to be able to walk away from our education sessions knowing that a group of people are safer from fraud than they were yesterday. We are passionate about getting people talking about fraud – we don’t want it to be a shameful topic anymore. It’s lovely to see someone in a group bravely open up about being a victim of fraud, then suddenly, many other people want to talk about their own experiences and feel relieved that they are actually not alone”.

Follow Avon and Somerset police on Instagram and Facebook on 7 February to catch Cyber Protect Officers’ Megan and Felix’s top tips for staying safe online on Safer Internet Day.

The team is also hosting a free online webinar on Monday 27 February: ‘Online Safety for Women and Girls’. The session will focus on how to keep safe online and protect personal information. It is part of a wider piece of work within our Violence Against Women and Girls strategy which, amongst other activity, focuses on empowering and educating women and girls, but the session is open to all.  You can register for this webinar at Eventbrite searching for Avon and Somerset Police Cyber Protect Team: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/online-safety-for-women-and-girls-tickets-528119308067

If you are part of a community group, school, business or parent group who would benefit from a talk on fraud prevention or cyber-crime, please email the teams at fraudprotect@avonandsomerset.police.uk or cyberprotect@avonandsomerset.police.uk

If you have been a victim of fraud, including fraudulent emails, do not open any attachments or click any links. Report all incidents of fraud to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, via their website or contact 0300 123 2040. In an emergency, call 999.