Meet the team who hit criminals where it hurts - in the pocket
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Merseyside Police's Economic Crime Team is a financial force to be reckoned with.
You've probably never heard of them but they are the team behind some of the most significant hauls of cash seized from criminals on Merseyside.
The team, made up of police officers, staff and volunteers, are responsible for investigating frauds and money laundering, seizing ill-gotten cash through Proceeds of Crime applications (POCA) and working with banks and law enforcement agencies to recover large amounts of defrauded cash for victims.
They also make the public aware of potential frauds, educate people on how to avoid falling foul of scams and safeguard vulnerable victims.
Detective Inspector Holly Chance, who heads up the team, said: “The day-to-day work of the team is hugely impactful but a lot of what we do probably goes largely unnoticed.
“Most people will probably only become aware that we exist if they have been a victim of a fraud but there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes.
“When people are arrested they lose their liberty but the Economic Crime Team can also hit criminals where it really hurts – in the pocket.
“Since the UK-wide lockdown started last March it is clear that some individuals on Merseyside have continued to try to benefit from the proceeds of their crimes but our work is relentless.
“In the first 10 weeks of the lockdown last year we seized over £607,000 in suspected ill-gotten cash on the streets of through stop-checks, drug searches and warrants. In total between April 2020 to date the amount seized under POCA is in excess of £3,500,000.
“Since March 2019 we have also secured over £460,000 in bank refunds for people who have fallen victim to scams including bogus tradesmen, familial fraud, romance fraud and investment fraud.
“Some of the work we do can take months of painstaking investigation but it is important that people see that we won’t allow criminals to benefit from their illegal activity and that any ill-gotten cash will be taken from them and where possible redistributed to our local communities for everyone’s benefit.
“A large number of calls we receive as a force are from elderly and vulnerable members of the public who feel they have been targeted by fraudsters.
“I want them, and other law-abiding members of the public, to feel confident to come forward and know that we have experienced staff who will support them and we will investigate and take positive action to stamp out financial crime.”
A POCA seizure is applied to cash believed to either been derived from criminal conduct or likely to be used as such. The suspected criminals will have to prove where the money came from. The cases will end up before the courts and if appealed would end up in a trial, with the respondent having to provide evidence in order to reclaim the cash.
In just one example of how the seized money is reinvested, in 2019 residents in Speke had the final say in how £26,000 of money seized as part of POCA would be spent in their community. The programme, locally named ‘Speke Up’, aimed to generate a sustainable environment for the local community by supporting local projects aimed at reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.
If you suspect someone may be trying to scam you, report it to the police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency. Further fraud crime prevention advice can be found on the Merseyside Police website, or on the Action Fraud site at www.actionfraud.police.uk.