Sandra O from Warwickshire

Sandra O from Stratford upon Avon, contacted the Think Jessica team having had a preview of our web site. Two years ago I found that my father (now 81 years old) had been sucked in by scammers and was spending his life savings in the belief that he had truly ‘won’ the prizes they promised him. Some 4 years previously he had responded to a scam letter and his details were added to suckers’ lists, and the problem began to snowball.

I had been concerned for sometime about the amount of outgoing post – mainly to Holland and the USA. I challenged him a number of times as to the reason and content. Each time he assured me the post was genuine and that he was not including money.

The amount of incoming post continued to grow – the Postie must have needed a bag just for Dad’s mail alone- until it covered the dining table, and spilled over into the living room. My late mother challenged him about the post, but he denied that there was a problem. Eventually he was spending all his mornings opening post and his afternoons and evenings responding to it.

Finally I ‘stole’ 3 letters on the pretence of posting them for him. I plucked up the nerve to open them and imagine my horror when 3 cheques spilled out for over £50 – and 3 outgoing letters was a ‘light’ day!

I contacted his building society,and I cannot praise Nationwide highly enough for their help and advice. They also had their own horror stories of customers in serious debt due to scam letters. At least Dad was in credit – just!

I then confronted him with the evidence of his spending. He initially denied the spending in spite of the evidence in front of him. I explained in detail the extent of the fraud, that he had no hope of getting any money back etc.etc. etc. It was as though he had been programmed to ignore me, almost brainwashed, as he did not want to hear a word said against the letters. Even the fact that 2 of the letters were going to the same place (a data processing centre in Las Vegas – a lot seem to go there) although they were from different ‘companies’ did not strike him as odd. Neither did the fact that they said he had won in a draw he had never entered.

Eventually he agreed to have his post redirected to me. He also had all outstanding cheques stopped (20+) immediately.

I was horrified at the amount of post I then received on his behalf – around 100 items a week, EVERY week and all delivered by Royal Mail who gain the revenue from the postage. I kept a post log for 16 months or so. After 16 months I was still getting 30-50per week. Now, after 22 months of not responding, I get 5-10 per week, some of which are from still more new ‘organisations’.

The Royal Mail direction ends after 24 months – October 2008. I wrote to Royal Mail explaining the problem, stating that these letters will haunt my father until he dies and could his mail be redirected indefinitely. I have been allowed an additional 12 months, after which time the problem returns to my Dad’s letterbox. If he responds to just one letter the whole thing will begin again.

The main company bothering him now is Readers Digest. This is in spite of me informing them that they are not to post goods to him ( view it here) . His deliveries from them appear unsolicited, and arrive by private courier, so it is harder for me to intercept them. If you have read this far – well done!! I could add so very much more. I thought my Dad had spent around 10,000 on this but recent evidence seems to indicate a bigger spend – at least double that.

So – be aware! Check your relatives post, query anything that appears dubious, be prepared to step in to help your loved ones even if it causes a row. Better that than having criminals rob them of their life savings.

Finally – in the last month my Dad has received 3 scam letters delivered by private delivery firms – so the scammers are adding to their methods. Be vigilant! Sandra Oram.