VULNERABLE victims of heartless scams will soon find support in a new police initiative as fraud continues to soar.

Fraud now makes up around 65 per cent of reported crime and the number of people in Oxfordshire contacting Citizens Advice Oxford about scams has shot up by a third in the past year.

Thames Valley Police is doing what it can to crack down on the crime and will launch Operation Signature, which will offer enhanced support to ensure victims are not preyed upon again, in October.

Meanwhile, a new scheme that enables staff at banks to raise the alarm when witnessing suspicious activity has prevented £602,000 from being taken from people in the region since it started in February.

Detective inspector Duncan Wynn, the head of TVP’s economic crime unit, spoke to the Oxford Mail about Op Signature and the force’s victim-focussed approach.

Oxford Mail:

DI Wynn

He said: “In the past, fraud has often been looked at as a victimless crime. But fraud that preys on the vulnerable can be unpleasant and financially catastrophic for victims.

“A lot of elderly victims may have pension funds and savings put away, but once that’s taken away there is no earning capacity to replace that. It could mean the difference between heating the house and paying for food or not.

“Common sense dictates that we can’t investigate our way out of this problem because the majority of offenders are from outside of the Thames Valley – in fact they can be anywhere in the world. But the victims are ours.  

“So we change focus and ensure victims are prevented from becoming repeat victims.”

Mr Wynn said he had high hopes for Op Signature, which will be launched in two months. The scheme will use volunteers from the public to visit fraud-victims and provide them with preventative advice.

It is based on statistical evidence that shows scam victims, who have an average age of 75, are at high risk of being victimised again.


Fraud takes a variety of forms, ranging all the way from rogue traders knocking on doors to fake sellers offering items online.

Some of the scams picked up by Citizens Advice Oxford in the past year take a more complicated approach and involve enormous sums of money.

One recent victim, Emmett, whose identity has been protected, met a Polish woman online.

Believing he and the woman were in a relationship, he sold his home so that he could move to Poland and live with her and transferred £100,000 into her account so they could purchase a property together.

He did not realise she had purchased the property in her name only until he travelled to Poland to look for work.

Emmett returned to the UK after running out of cash and never heard from the woman again.

Another Oxfordshire resident, Samar, in his early twenties, received a call from a woman claiming to be from his bank HSBC in the past year.

She told him there was a problem with his account and said he would have to transfer money to a friend, who could then transfer it into a new account the bank would set up for him.

Samar transferred £10,000 to his friend who subsequently transferred it to the ‘new account’.

After hearing nothing for several days, Samar contacted HSBC, who told him there was no record of the previous phone conversation.

Like the police, Citizens Advice Oxford is keen to keep scams in the public consciousness and defend potential victims by raising awareness.

Amy Broderick, from the service, said: “In July, Citizen’s Advice Oxford ran a Scams Awareness initiative to empower Oxford citizens and reduce the number of people in the local area falling prey to scams.

“We want to keep the dialogue alive, aiming to educate people on how to spot a scam, where to report it, and why it is important to talk about scams and fraud.

“Citizens Advice research shows that nearly three-quarters of people have been targeted by scammers in the past two years. They can be hugely detrimental, with people sometimes losing their life savings.

“Other scams are relatively small and often go unreported, but these crimes can still have a big impact on the county’s residents.”

Another recent scam to take place in the county may sound more familiar.

Mr Wynn explained: “In Oxfordshire there was an elderly gentleman who walked into a bank to withdraw £3,000 to pay the lottery company to access a £50,000 win.

“The vast majority of people would know that was a scam but he was convinced he had won this money.”

Fortunately, this last victim was protected by the ‘banking protocol’ scheme and wary staff alerted the authorities.

Mr Wynn added: “Before banking protocol he would have lost that and continued to receive more and more phone calls asking for money.”


While the elderly are prime targets for scammers, they are far from the only victims of fraud.

Mr Wynn said: “When September comes in Oxford we’ll be working to protect students coming to the city for the first time, who are vulnerable and having large amounts of money put into their bank accounts for the first time.

“They could fall victim to accommodation scams or employment scams so we do a lot of work with Oxford Brookes to educate students.”

Research by Citizens Advice shows that the median loss in scams they have dealt with is £330. While most victims are elderly, 75 per cent of people will be targeted at some point, and the number people aged 18 to 24 falling victim to con-artists is on the rise.

One solution, says Mr Wynn, is going back to basics and building community resilience.

He said: “What we’re urging members of the public to do is upskill their own knowledge and use it for themselves as well as sharing it with their friends, family and neighbours.

“The best people to safeguard someone is the community around them. It’s a case of giving an elderly neighbour a knock and having a chat, which is when you might hear about a phone call and say you think it sounds like a scam.

“It’s all about knowledge and having that awareness.”

To find more advice and information about scams go to or or