Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
First the good news: Fraud prevention detectives have just seized a haul of scam post which was supposed to be sent to thousands of vulnerable people across the UK to get money off them
In the first operation of its kind, officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit (Operation Sterling) took possession of a bulk delivery of scam mail and closed five virtual offices used by the scammers.
The bad news, though is that there are many more like these scumbags working at equally mean-minded plans to defraud you so you must be on your guard if you get a letter that looks too good to be true.
These letters are designed to con you into investing in bogus schemes such as fake lotteries, share frauds and inheritance scams. They depend on persuading you to transfer money to them based on promises of valuable goods, services, or benefits that are never delivered (surprise, surprise).
They send you a first ‘tempter’ letter, and if you reply your name is put on a ‘suckers’ list which is then sold to other criminals all over the world. Chronic victims of scam mail end up being hounded by numerous criminal organisations and an estimated £3.5 billion is ‘scammed’ from UK citizens each year. Around £2.4 billion of this is believed to be as a result of mail scams.
Marilyn Baldwin, of victim support group Think Jessica, said: “My mother Jessica was in her late seventies and suffering from (undiagnosed) age-related declining mental health when she was hunted down by scam mail criminals.
“For five years I tried to convince my mum that she was being scammed, but criminals claiming to be clairvoyants, lottery officials and solicitors led her to believe the family were against her – she would not co-operate.
“The only help I could find was lip service. I believe that the 30,000 scam letters we removed from her home contributed to her death in 2007.”
Ms Baldwin started the campaign www.thinkjessica.com three years ago and during that time she has been alerted to thousands of elderly and vulnerable silent victims who are being tricked, ‘befriended’ and threatened by criminals worldwide. Some receive up to 100 scam letters a day, many have sold their homes and emptied their bank accounts to keep up with the criminals’ demands.
If you are a victim of mass marketing fraud contact Action Fraud to report it or to get advice: www.actionfraud.co.uk. Alternatively, report the fraud to your local police station. Further advice can be found at www.met.police.uk/fruadalert/index.htm