SCAM mail fraud is costing pensioners millions of pounds claim police.
Sussex Police say they are the first force to quantify the scale of mail fraud.
Criminals worldwide are sending millions of scam letters into the UK, targeting elderly and vulnerable people.
Working with the Metropolitan Police and the National Scams Hub (set up by East Sussex Trading Standards), Sussex Police obtained a list of potential victims containing the names and addresses of 1,537 people living in Sussex.
In Operation Signature, over the past six months local officers have spoken to more than 900 people across the county, who had been named on the seized list. From the visits they found that over 400 of these elderly vulnerable people had lost a total of more than £2 million.
The majority of the identified victims were between the ages of 80 and 90 and almost all of these had not recognised that they were victims of fraud.
The campaign is now a permanent feature of local policing with leaflets and awareness visits and talks, starting this week. Signature scam mail awareness posters are appearing on buses across the county, and advice leaflets are being distributed to every home in Sussex with the annual Council Tax notice.
Chronic victims of scam mail are hounded by numerous criminal organisations - after replying to the first ‘tempter’ letter, victim’s names and addresses are put on a ‘target’ list - these lists are then sold to other criminals all over the world.
Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones said; “This is a mean and heartless crime that targets elderly, vulnerable and often lonely people. Sometimes the scams include fake charities.”