ROYAL Mail is today accused of making millions from conmen who defraud the elderly on a massive scale.
Elderly people are losing vast sums through vile letter frauds sent through the post.
And the letters are being delivered to their victims – some of the most vulnerable people in Britain – by Royal Mail under its lucrative bulk mail contracts.
It means the conmen behind the illegal letters are able to get Royal Mail branding on their envelopes – making it easy to gain the trust of their British victims.
They are even able to take advantage of Royal Mail’s discounted bulk postage rates.
And despite repeated warnings about the scale of the fraud, Royal Mail is refusing to crack down on the letters.
In a major undercover investigation by the Mail, the network of conmen – who make millions through their letters – were filmed openly laughing at their ‘suggestible’ and ‘uneducated’ elderly victims over lavish dinners, oysters and champagne.
A number told how they use the trusted ‘Royal Mail’ logo to make their letters look more genuine.
One even said the printed ‘Royal Mail’ marks on the letters helped to convince vulnerable elderly people that the scams – falsely promising money – were genuine and that ‘the government allows it’.
Following a major undercover investigation, the Mail today reveals how an international network of scammers:
Call themselves a ‘mafia’ who ‘rip off’ elderly people, and admit their business is ‘not very nice’
Meet to swap ‘suckers lists’ of vulnerable victims at lavish conferences all over the world
Laugh at the ‘lonely’ and ‘crazy’ people who ‘really believe’ the letters they send, suggesting they have won a prize or should buy worthless products
Make millions out of their crimes by targeting those confused victims who will send money for ‘absolutely anything’
Admit their mailings are ‘lying’, ‘fraud’ and ‘probably not’ legal – but boast they always get away with it because the authorities ‘don’t really care’
Avoid UK authorities by using mailboxes in Switzerland and the Netherlands – and hiding money in offshore accounts in tax havens like Panama
The findings will raise serious questions for Royal Mail – which has been warned for over a decade that elderly customers were being put at risk by scams in the post.
Campaigners last night accused the Royal Mail of ‘profiting from the criminal exploitation of the elderly’ and said it was ‘disgraceful’ that the Royal Mail logo was being allowed to appear on fraudulent post.
And Business Minister Margot James said she would summon Royal Mail to an urgent meeting to demand immediate action.
‘I’d like to thank the Daily Mail for their work in highlighting this case,’ she said.
‘I will be holding a meeting with Royal Mail, other postal operators and the National Trading Standards’ Scams Team to ensure this issue is tackled as a matter of urgency.
‘Mass marketing scams target some of the most vulnerable people in the UK and should not be tolerated.’
Elderly people in the UK are thought to lose up to £5.8billion a year through postal scams – with those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s often falling victim.
One elderly woman was ‘brainwashed’ by scammers into handing over £100,000, while another ended up losing her home aged 90.
Often the problem remains hidden because elderly people are too afraid or ashamed to seek help.
Royal Mail postmen told the Mail they ‘hated’ being made to deliver the scam letters, but feared they would lose their jobs if they refused.
One postman, in his 40s, said he could tell from the envelopes which letters were scams and routinely warns those on his delivery round about them.
Speaking anonymously for fear of losing his job, he told the Daily Mail: ‘I tell them to throw the letters straight in the bin. But if my bosses found out, I’d be sacked.’
After a year-long investigation, the Mail has traced a criminal network that makes millions scamming vulnerable people in the UK in this way – sending their illegal letters through Royal Mail’s bulk mail contracts.
The scams include letters from fake clairvoyants, prize draw scams and illegal advertisements for unlicensed health remedies.
An undercover reporter for the Mail went to a lavish conference attended by the group, in the Canadian ski resort of Whistler.
There, the scammers openly told of sending ‘rip off’ letters which were ‘probably not’ legal in a bid to extort money from the vulnerable.
And some told how the Royal Mail branding on their envelopes helped to gain the trust of their British victims.
One French scammer told a Mail undercover reporter Royal Mail’s logo helped to dupe his 400,000 British victims into thinking the ‘government allows’ their letters.
‘We have a partner who works with Royal Mail,’ said Yann Wenz. ‘It’s better with Royal Mail than without.
‘Because it comes from England [the recipient believes] the government allows it.
‘It’s not right – but people are thinking that.’
Mr Wenz told the undercover reporter his company had had repeated problems with the UK’s ‘overprotecting’ authorities.
But he said: ‘We want to stay [operating in the UK].’
Hundreds of scams get into the UK through the Royal Mail’s bulk contract with the postal company Whistl, formerly known as TNT, which is worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year to Royal Mail.
Whistl is paid by companies such as Asendia to get bulk quantities of letters from abroad into Royal Mail’s system.
Some of the scams which get into the UK through Whistl and Asendia have already been banned in America.
The United States Post Office said the letters were clearly ‘criminal frauds’ targeted at ‘elderly and vulnerable victims’ which needed to be banned from entering the country.
But the Royal Mail claims it cannot act over the frauds in the UK and is legally obliged to deliver any addressed letter, including those from Whistl.
As a result, the same frauds banned in America are still routinely arriving in the UK and being delivered by Royal Mail.
Some victims are receiving sacksful of scam letters every week, marked with the ‘Royal Mail’ Whistl contract stamp.
Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said the investigation demonstrated how ‘criminal scammers around the world’ had ‘manipulated the postal system’ in the UK.
Campaigner Marilyn Baldwin OBE, who started the anti-scam charity Think Jessica after her mother was a victim, said she was ‘horrified’ by the ‘indifference’ of the postal companies.
‘It is an utter disgrace,’ she said. ‘Elderly people are being preyed on by criminals through the post and yet the Royal Mail, Asendia and Whistl simply shrug their shoulders.
‘These companies are profiting from the criminal exploitation of the elderly.
‘It is disgraceful that the Royal Mail logo is still being allowed to appear on fraudulent post – Royal Mail should be cancelling their contract with Whistl if they are supplying illegal scam letters.’
Baroness Ros Altmann, former pensions minister and campaigner for the elderly, said Royal Mail had a ‘duty of care’.
‘It is outrageous that vulnerable elderly people are being so cynically targeted,’ she said.
‘The Royal Mail logo is a trusted brand, built up over many years and associated with official authority.
‘It is shameful to allow the logo to be used by fraudsters. Urgent action needs to be taken.’
All the postal companies involved said they abhorred scam mail but could not make checks on what they were sending because of postal secrecy. They all said they made it clear to their clients that illegal letters should not be sent.
Last night a spokesman for Royal Mail said: ‘We take the evidence submitted to us by the Daily Mail very seriously.
‘Royal Mail does not knowingly distribute mail from fraudsters and we have terminated contracts where companies have been proven to be operating scam mail.
‘We have contacted Whistl and other postal companies and asked them to review any suspect contracts as a matter of urgency.’
A spokesman for Whistl said they would ‘investigate all scam mail brought to their attention.’
The spokesman said Whistl had bought the scam letters in from ‘an intermediary’ without knowing what they were or who the sender was.
‘We have no ability to see the actual content of the mail items’ the spokesman added. ‘We contract in good faith with our customers that their mailings are legal.’
A spokesman for Asendia admitted it had held a contract with the company that had been printing millions of scam mailings on behalf of fraudsters.
But it said Asendia ‘did not accept any responsibility for the mailings’, which it had passed to Whistl and other partners for delivery through Royal Mail.
It said it could not had carried out any checks on the letters because of ‘legal obligations regarding postal secrecy.’
Mr Wenz said his company always worked to stay on the right said of the law. A spokesman for the company said it denied any wrongdoing and that it was in the process of appealing to the European Court to challenge its treatment by the British authorities.
By Katherine Faulkner
Mail Investigations Editor
The names and addresses of the most vulnerable people in Britain are being traded on ‘suckers’ lists’ between criminals who are targeting them through the Royal Mail, it can be revealed today.
The details of those people who have fallen victim to frauds sent through the post are being routinely sold and traded by ruthless data brokers who work on behalf of the fraudsters.
The fraudsters are willing to pass on their ‘suckers lists’ to these brokers to offer to others who want to target the same people – many of whom will be elderly or suffering from dementia – with further scams.
They do this because the ‘competitor’ conmen will then share their own ‘suckers’ lists’ in return – so both parties ultimately end up with more vulnerable potential victims to target.
As a result of this illegal trade, an elderly or vulnerable person who has been defrauded once is usually then bombarded with hundreds more attempted frauds.
In many cases, they end up being preyed on by conmen from all over the world – and in some cases losing their entire life savings or even their homes.
One data broker, German Lars Muhlschlegel, told an undercover Mail reporter he could sell her the names of ‘very elderly people’ who had responded to fraudulent letters in the past.
His company – Liebetrau Listservice based in Koln, Germany – openly boasts that it ‘specialises in targeting seniors’, and has previously offered for sale a list of 854,000 people in a ‘difficult personal situation’, as well as a list of 444,000 people with ‘pain related to ageing’.
One of the lists includes personal details of 55,000 elderly people who buy treatments for disorders including memory loss, blindness and osteoarthritis. Other lists include details for 189,000 elderly men with ‘weakening virility’ and vulnerable people who responded to ‘esoteric’ scams.
And in an advert for their services, they used photograph of an elderly couple, next to the words: ‘Is this your target group? Then get in touch with us now.’
Lars Muhlschlegel said the ‘most valuable customers’ are a small group of elderly people who ‘buy everything everywhere.’
When asked who they tend to be, he said: ‘Very old people. These are the people who are going to read mailings because they have got the time.
‘They are going to read this mail, from the first to the last sentence. No matter what kind of mail they receive.’
He also said that most of his clients ‘want to conceal who is the real owner of the business. So they always work with offshore companies.’
When asked why, he admitted that the claims made in the letters were ‘a lot of make believe’ adding, ‘It’s a kind of fraud. To my eyes it’s a kind of fraud. That’s the reason they conceal who is behind it.
‘They make it difficult for consumer authorities to find out who is responsible, so they can’t sue against somebody.’
He admitted there were ‘always people complaining’ about their names being sold, but said they just take their names off the list and ‘there’s only very, very few cases where people make a lot of trouble.’
A second data broker offered to sell the undercover reporter a ‘suckers’ list’ of 370,000 British victims of a major fraud.
David Anthony – of the data company Gecko international – admitted he was a former business partner of the convicted criminal Gerhard Bruckberger.
And he said he was willing to sell the names of those elderly people in the UK who had fallen victim to Bruckberger – who targeted hundreds of thousands of elderly people all over Europe and made millions through the letters.
Bruckberger was convicted of serious commercial fraud in Vienna in 2014 and was jailed for four years.
Anthony said that as well as selling data, he was still sending out letters of his own.
‘I had a good conversation after [sending] them with the German government about law, because they think [my letters are] a little bit too rough,’ he laughed.
Anthony he said that after his run-ins with the authorities, he had decided to send them from the Netherlands – instead of his native Germany – to avoid further trouble.
He said he had also changed the logos on his letters so it would not be obvious he had been behind them.
‘Now I do the mailing, also, but over the Netherlands and to Germany… going Netherlands to Germany and the return will also go to the Netherlands,’ he said.
‘I changed some small pieces, new logo, that will be not coming back to me.’
The suckers’ lists were being traded during an extraordinary conference in Canada, where those attending included conmen from around the world who were involved in postal frauds.
David Anthony, Gerhard Bruckberger and Lars Muhlscghlegel all failed to respond to the Mail’s requests for comment.
By Katherine Faulkner and Mario Ledwith
Mail Investigations Unit
A huge payment processing company run by a British businesswoman is helping to facilitate mass fraud against the elderly, the Mail can reveal.
Fraudsters who send vile scam letters to British pensioners use PacNet Services to process the cheques they get back from their vulnerable victims.
PacNet charges the fraudsters a fee for processing the thousands of cheques they receive, and then wiring them the money.
The process allows the fraudsters to disguise the fact that their money has come from illegally ripping off elderly people.
The company – which is thought to make over £100 million a year – was founded by Rosanne Day, a British woman from Somerset, and a British-Canadian man, Robert Paul Davis.
It is thought to have been ‘knowingly’ helping postal fraudsters to hide the proceeds of their crimes for the last 20 years – and stands accused by the US government of being a ‘significant transnational criminal organization’ – charges the company denies.
The Mail can now reveal that PacNet even sponsored a lavish conference earlier this year, hosting conmen from Britain and around the world as they traded ‘suckers’ lists’ of British fraud victims and discussed how best to ‘rip off’ elderly people.
The conference – held in the exclusive Canadian ski resort of Whistler – was attended by an undercover reporter for the Daily Mail.
During the conference, PacNet representatives shared £300 bottles of Dom Perignon champagne with the conmen and helped pay for them to enjoy gourmet dinners, drinks and entertainment.
The company’s British founder and owner Rosanne Day, from Yeovil in Somerset, is thought to have stayed in a penthouse at the five-star Fairmont Chateau hotel, which costs £1100 per night and features floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning mountain views, deluxe marble bathrooms, a Jacuzzi and its own concierge.
PacNet’s two leading figures – Rosanne Day and Robert Paul Davis – are British.
However, twice married Mrs Day, 49, and her husband Gordon Day, 71 – who is also British – now live in Vancouver, Canada, where PacNet is headquartered.
They live in a stunning £2million four-bedroom house on a tree-lined street just a short drive from the city’s beach.
But they still own a holiday home called ‘Walnut Cottage’ in the pretty village of Barton St David in Somerset, worth around £500,000.
Mr Day bought the cottage with no mortgage in December 2012, paying £250,000 in cash for it.
Mrs Day also owns two other properties in British Columbia, worth £850,000 and £316,000, according to Canadian newspaper reports.
Robert Paul Davis – who is a qualified pilot, and previously used PacNet’s plane to move huge bundles of the company’s cash around Europe – has a number of properties on the Isle of Man, as well as a rare breeds farm.
He owns a stunning three-bedroom rural barn conversion which his farm is registered to – a property he paid £1million for in 2013 – and another four-bedroom Georgian style house, also on the Isle of Man, which he bought the previous year for £450,000. Both were paid for in cash with no mortgage.
Despite being designated by the US Government as the head of a ‘significant transnational criminal organization’ Mr Davis looked relaxed last week when he was seen shopping in the Isle of Man.
Mr Davis, 60, was accompanied on the trip by his much younger wife Monica, 43, and their £80,000 Tesla supercar.
Mrs Davis – who was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘flawless stunning fantastic’ and carrying a designer handbag – is the managing partner of a PacNet subsidiary in her native country of Brazil – but describes her occupation as ‘homemaker’ on company documents.
It is impossible to know exactly how much money PacNet makes, because companies headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, are not required to make their accounts public.
Sources investigating the scams, though, believe the company was generating well over £100million a yearand was charging fraudsters around 3.5 per cent commission.
The US government last month grounded PacNet’s airline, seized its bank accounts, banned its business operations and seized the property and assets of key figures within the company after U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch declared it a ‘criminal organization.’
The US Government also said they would be carrying out searches in ‘a number of US locations.’
Ms Lynch said: ‘PacNet has a 20-year history of engaging in money laundering and mail fraud, by knowingly processing payments on behalf of a wide range of mail fraud schemes that target victims in the United States and throughout the world.’
She said that ‘in 2016 alone, PacNet has processed payments for the perpetrators of more than 100 different mail fraud campaigns, collectively involving tens of millions of dollars.’
A spokesman for PacNet denied the allegations and said the company provided a ‘legitimate and lawful service’.
The spokesman said the company ‘denies ever knowingly processing payments for deceptive mailings by any of its clients’ and ‘works diligently to avoid working with companies that are operating fraudulently.’
It said it had been one of several conference sponsors at the NetworkingDM conference in Whistler, and ‘was not aware that any individuals in attendance were engaged in any kind of mailing fraud.’
It denied the PacNet plane had ever been used for ‘an illegal movement of cash.’
The spokesman refused to discuss turnover, profits or the remuneration of Ms Day or Mr Davis.
By Katherine Faulkner
Mail Investigations Editor
The scene could hardly be more inviting.
As the sun sets on the edge of a beautiful lake in the Canadian mountains, champagne and canapés are served to a glamorous, international crowd.
Men in suits with glinting designer watches chatter happily with women wearing cocktail dresses and stilettos – while their flutes of champagne are constantly refilled by waiting staff.
Anyone who glimpsed the scene would assume the stylish group were at an ordinary – if rather lavish – business conference.
Many of the group are obviously fond friends and colleagues.
And on the surface, the atmosphere seems convivial, as they make contacts, discuss plans, and celebrate success.
But – when out of earshot of his colleagues – one handsome, smartly-dressed German reveals the truth.
‘Here it is a little bit like the mafia reunion worldwide,’ he says, quietly.
‘All the people you see around here – that’s the whole industry.
‘It’s a very very, very, closed shop business. And the business itself is… not very nice always.’
The truth is, this is anything but a normal business conference.
The ‘industry’ many of these men and women are involved in is the despicable business of ripping off millions of pensioners through postal scams.
In their vile letters – mass produced and sent on an industrial scale – they try to trick vulnerable and elderly people into sending off money through the post.
Incredibly, hundreds of thousands of these letters are flown into Britain every month, in bulk, from Europe.
The letters get into the mail system with the connivance of private postage companies – who turn a blind eye to what is going on.
And they are placed in the hands of their victims by trusted Royal Mail postmen, proudly wearing the Queen’s insignia on their jackets.
It is a practice the Royal Mail seems unable, or unwilling, to stop.
The scammers even enjoy huge discounts on their postage as a thanks for sending so much – helping them to maximise the profit they generate from their criminal enterprises.
Those behind these letters share the hundreds of millions a year being made from the misery of vulnerable, British victims.
And those dining on Moet and mini-beef burger canapés at this bizarre conference in the beautiful Whistler mountains include the industry’s biggest players.
Some of their letters prey on the sick, promising cures that – as one scammer laughingly admits – ‘don’t really work, and [the people sending them] know they don’t really work. It’s make believe- a kind of fraud.’
Others find even more sinister ways to exploit elderly people who – through bereavement, isolation or dementia – are among the most vulnerable in society.
Some of the letters involve people posing as clairvoyants, who tell elderly people those closest to them are trying to harm them. Unless they send money for protection, the letters claim, they will be in grave danger.
And above all, they must not tell their families and friends about the letters.
These ghastly ‘clairvoyant’ mailings are the type of letter Christian Limpach – a handsome, well dressed German – tells the Mail’s undercover reporter he is involved in.
And the aim of them is clear: ‘to rip off the people’ – particularly ‘females over 60’, who are seen as the most vulnerable.
The letters, he admits, are ’crazy’ and ‘very weird’. But, he adds unapologetically, ‘they work’. And ‘the more you lie, the better it sells.’
As he and his colleagues tuck into enjoy a lavish dinner of lamb in red wine sauce and truffle macaroni at Whistler’s upmarket Bearfoot Bistro, the Mail’s undercover reporter asks Mr Limpach if he feels he is ripping people off.
‘Yes’, he says bluntly, pausing between mouthfuls.
‘People pay for something that’s not worth money. Not much at least.
‘Maybe it’s not a nice expression, ripping off people, but… we [are] reaping the profits.’
Asked if what he is doing is legal, he gives a wry smile.
‘Ah… That’s a very very good question,’ he replies. ‘It’s grey, we say. It’s a grey area.’
Some of the other scammers at the conference tell the Mail’s reporter they specialise in sweepstake and prize draw letters.
These are the kind that claim you’ve won a car or a huge cash prize, and just need to pay a ‘release fee’ to get it. The more money you send, the more the fees escalate.
An expert lawyer examined these letters for the Mail. She said many of the sweepstake letters and clairvoyant letters we showed her could amount to a criminal fraud.
Of course, ordinary people rarely fall for such scams.
That is why those behind them send them only to the elderly and vulnerable.
They know that the elderly are most likely to believe they are duty-bound to reply to these official-looking – and apparently personally-addressed – letters.
And of course, the letters are made to look like they are sent from within the UK, almost always bearing a British, Royal Mail logo.
To ensure they are targeting the most likely victims, the scammers develop lists of those most likely to fall for scams – known as ‘suckers lists.’
They then trade them around with other criminals, in exchange for more such names – which is why the elderly are bombarded with scam mail.
‘These people are a gift’, one Canadian sweepstake scammer, Andrew John Thomas, told me mockingly.
‘They get sucked in. These people just should not be buying these things.
‘And yet they are, and I can’t do anything about that. So I look on them as a gift.’
Mr Thomas was speaking over yet another lavish champagne reception and dinner, this time at top Whistler restaurant Araxi, which also boasts a champagne and Oyster bar.
Swirling his glass of pinot noir, Mr Thomas told our reporter his ‘beautiful talent’ for creative writing made him a dab hand at writing scam letters.
‘I am passionate about my prostitution, my ability to whore my beautiful talent to sell this shit to people who don’t need it,’ he grinned.
‘It’s hard to be proud of it but, well, I’m good at it – I’m a proud whore!’
Having previously specialised in clairvoyant letters, Mr Thomas said he was now concentrating on prize draw and sweepstake scams – because ‘in terms of the dollar value’ he could make more money.
Between mouthfuls of steak, he openly mocked his victims, doing wide-eyed impressions of their belief in that phoney health products could ‘heal them’.
‘The people that we’re dealing with, they’re just like… I don’t even understand them,’ he said.
‘They are people who I wouldn’t be friends with, you know?
‘They are so susceptible to suggestion. And so, the art of it is to just tap them with suggestion. And then as that suggestion is working, then you just dime it from there.’
Mr Thomas told how he no longer minded that he was lying to people – saying he had learned to ‘let the lie go – you know? Because there is no truth.’
This shameless gang meet for their ‘conference’ once every two years – in glamorous locations all over the world.
They call it ‘Networking DM’ – DM standing for ‘Direct Mail’. But ‘Networking DM’ is like no other conference.
There are no talks, no lectures, no eminent guest speakers, no auditoriums or lecture halls – and in fact, no explicit references to what their business actually is, at all.
The conference consists, by day, of private meetings in hushed tones over champagne breakfasts or coffee in the hotel’s wood-panelled lobby bar.
And the rest of the time, there is a constant stream of lavish entertainment.
Even at breakfast, guests were served amuse bouches – with strawberries, goat cheese and a white balsamic glaze – while yet more bottles of champagne were on offer.
This extraordinary largesse was generously sponsored by a number of companies at the conference including a payment processing giant called PacNet.
This shadowy company – branded a ‘criminal organisation’ which is ‘knowingly’ laundering money for fraudsters by the US Government – is understood to process much of the money generated by the scam mailings.
In the words of one scammer: ‘Everybody here uses PacNet. Everybody that wants to conceal the true source of business.’
When our undercover opened her purse to buy a drink, one of PacNet’s representatives pushed it closed.
‘Put your money away!’ she said.
Waving a manicured hand over the fully stocked bar, she added: ‘This is all free.’
Not that the attendees were short of money of their own.
Most make millions – and, according to one scammer at the conference, some in the industry ‘consider it a competition sport to avoid as much tax as possible.’
‘You’ll also find some of their companies are owned offshore,’ he claimed.
He said he believed that some could even have been ‘in the panama documents’ – a recent leak of documents relating to individuals apparently involved in offshore tax avoidance.
One of those involved in the scams, Erik Dekker, is known to own at least four high-performance cars, including a Porsche.
Another conference attendee – tangerine-tanned Dom Perignon drinker Barry Fulford – told our undercover reporter business was so good he had just bought a 38-ft boat for his home in the Bahamas.
‘It’s that Miami vice kind of style,’ he explained. ‘Lots of room downstairs, kitchen and stuff like that. Air conditioned. And lots of room for sunbathing’
Mr Fulford – who has previously had run-ins with the law over his tax affairs, the outcome of which isn’t known – was not forthcoming about the exact nature of his mailing activities, though he admitted regulators ‘can get a though he admitted regulators ‘can get a little aggressive’ about his line of work.
On the whole, though, he said: ‘It works just fine. People are going to send the money, and that’s what we want, right? Keeps me in the Bahamas!’
· Christian Limpach said he had been taking ‘about the direct mail market in general’ RATHER THAN WHAT HE PERSONALLY DID and that the quotes presented to him by the Mail were ‘not at all what I wanted to communicate’. Erik Dekker said he could not comment for legal reasons. Andrew John Thomas refused to comment. Barry Fulford could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for PacNet denied knowing that anyone there was involved in scams. PacNet deny ever knowingly processing money obtained through illegal activity. They say they take compliance very seriously and have a rigorous compliance program. They claim cheque processing for direct mail is only a small part of their business and that the US Government’s designation of them as a criminal organisation is unjustified.