Agencies unite together in scheme to thwart scammers
Almost one in five people in Northern Ireland have fallen victim to scammers in the last three years, police have said.
Many of the 314,840 victims were older people, with tricksters viewing them as an easier target. The criminals use mail, phone, email and doorstep approaches to try to get people to part with their money.
The statistic that 17% of the region's population have been scammed in three years was outlined as a new awareness campaign was launched.
The "If you can spot it, you can stop it" campaign is a joint initiative by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, NI Policing Board and Department of Justice.
It is part of the ScamwiseNI initiative that brings together the police, board and department with the Commissioner for Older Persons, the Consumer Council, Trading Standards and Age Sector Platform.
The new awareness drive includes a new short film detailing the experience of Erika - a victim of scammers.
The authorities have also re-published the Little Book Of Big Scams, which lists some of the key scams around at the minute and what people should do if they think they are being targeted.
Justice Minister Claire Sugden said: "Scams are cruel and can have a devastating effect on victims. They cause financial loss and can undermine the sense of safety and wellbeing of victims. The attackers often target the elderly, but the reality is that no one is safe from the threat of their, often sophisticated, scams.
"I welcome the work the ScamwiseNI Partnership is doing to tackle the issue and look forward to seeing the impact it has. This initiative gives us the tools we need to protect ourselves and our families from this threat - making us all more scam-wise."
Policing Board chair Anne Connolly said: "All forms of scamming are crimes but because they can often be online and faceless, many people feel more embarrassed about being duped than angry at being robbed.
"Figures show that 17% of our population have been the victims of scams but this does not include the thousands of others who have recognised the scam and ignored or prevented it, or those which have gone unreported.
"Many people who are scammed feel they are to blame for falling for it, but it's not their fault. If you have - or know someone who has - been a victim of fraud, no matter how small, you should report it to the PSNI or Action Fraud. In the meantime, it's time to get scamwise. Get the information to help you stop becoming a victim of scammers."
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris added: "Scamming is a growth area of crime which impacts on many sections of our community. It's a matter of real concern to police. We recognise it is not just the police who can impact on scamming, so we have taken a collaborative approach to highlight what steps can be taken to prevent people becoming victims of scams.
"Education is our best weapon in preventing people from becoming victims. The ScamwiseNI campaign aims to teach the public that we all need to be vigilant of any contact from an unsolicited source, whether that is from doorstep callers, telephone, mail or online.
"I would encourage any victims of a fraud or a scam to speak out and report it. Remember, if you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."