'Things came to a head when she phoned for £2k for US scammers'
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:08
By Ciaranfagan | LEICESTER MERCURY Posted: August 02, 2016
Scammers approach people by phone, post and online.
An anti-scam campaigner has spoken frankly about how his elderly mother fell victim to a series of frauds.
John, a volunteer at Citizens' Advice Charnwood, spoke out as a warning to others after his mother got into extreme financial difficulty after being targeted by phone and by mail. His full name is being withheld to protect his mum's identity.
The organisation has teamed up with trading standards officials across the city and county to run a campaign which will highlight the many ways in which fraud gangs part people from their cash.
It will seek to help people, such as John's mother, who lost thousands of pounds to "free'' prize draws, fake lotteries, over-priced health supplements and cosmetics catalogues and messages about prizes they have 'won'. Scammers target their victims by mail, telephone, text message and online Citizens' Advice Charnwood said.
"My mother had been a nurse, midwife and health visitor, and was in her late 70s when she started sending money to enter various lotteries across the world," John said.
"She never won a penny. Unperturbed, she moved on to catalogues selling creams, lotions and potions, sending money to receive large prizes she was told she'd already won.
"All she ever received was cheap jewellery and tat worth a few pence. I explained so many times that she was sending money to scammers and she always agreed. But there was something at the back of her mind that she might win big, and the next day she would carry on as before."
At one point, he said, his mother gave her debit card details to scammers and lost cash.
He said: "At times she lost so much she couldn't pay her bills and I had to help out. Things came to a real head when she phoned me at work to ask me to get her £2,000 from her account to send to scammers in the USA by Western Union transfer.
"My relationship with her became very difficult as she was giving away all her money and leaving herself short. The irony is that she didn't want the money for herself, she wanted to give it to me and my family, even though I didn't need it as I had a good job."
Fraud gangs hit people in Leicestershire to the tune of £1.2 million last year, according to a report by Leicestershire Police earlier this year.
In march, the force said it believed 8,000 people fell victim to various forms of fraud in the city and county last year, collectively losing £1.27 million.
Ann Bates, scams team worker at Citizens' Advice Charnwood, said the new team would visit people it knows have been targeted or who are believed to be at risk.
She said: "We often find these same victims are being telephoned numerous times a day by scammers trying to get their money, because unscrupulous companies sell their details on to other scammers.
"Some people tell us they feel foolish for getting sucked in, but these are cleverly-constructed frauds and victims come from all walks of life. It's not just the money, I've seen people who have effectively lost control of their lives, spending their days in an endless cycle of dealing with the post, going to the post office and doing filing.
"As their details are sold on, more post arrives, eventually the house starts to fill up and it gets harder to cope with the mail. The reality is the prizes don't exist, the draw will never take place, all the effort is wasted, and their hard-earned cash ends up funding criminals."
The Scams Project wants to hear from people who are currently losing money to scammers. It will help the victims regain control of their lives and do its best to undo the damage.
For those who have not yet been targeted, its advice is simple.
If you receive an unsolicited offer – whether it is a notification of a win in a lottery you have never entered or the promise of any other kind of prize – the best policy is to ignore it. Offers arrive in the post, by e-mail, online or by phone.
The project is keen to build up a picture of the latest trends in these frauds and would like to see any literature sent out by fraud gangs.
If the story of John's mother's experience sound familiar to your own, contact the Citizens' Advice local helpline on 0300 330 1025, or drop into your local Citizens' Advice office.