A.Y. from the South of England

Alison from the south of England contacted Think Jessica with this story. Her story, below, is a straight copy from her email. My father started being drawn into the scam prize draws and everything else that follows it not long after my mother passed away. Until that point in time he had not been in charge of the budget although he had always been the bread winner.

When mother passed away I think he was searching for attention in a way that he wanted people to love him, I think it is quite sad because we already did but perhaps the loss he felt needed some sort of replacement to take away the pain.

It seems to me that he got it into his head that if he could provide his family (even though we were all grown up and financially independent) that this would bring him the sort of response he desperately sought.

He never sought medical help after mother died but I wonder now whether he needed some sort of medical intervention as it was we as family were always around him caring for him and making sure he was ok and included in things.

It became apparent after a couple of years that father had been sending off replies to various prize draws, we all told him over and over again that it was all a con and that he was not going to win anything but at the time we had no idea that his mindset had already changed – he had been caught at his most vulnerable by faceless people that had found their way into his home via the post and had promised him something wonderful.

Not being around first thing in the morning and out of respect of mail being private we had no idea of the sorts of letters he was getting, or the sort of money he had already parted with when it became quite apparent that father had obviously become sucked into something clearly set out to make him part with every penny he had we tried to persuade him gently and compassionately that the was being ripped off and that we were trying to protect him.

Each time we had reason for concern we would be assured that it would stop and that he would no longer send off to the scams sadly though it was just telling us what we wanted to hear and he spent the rest of his time continuing his activities but hiding them from us in any way he could.

Every now and then something would crop up that would make my heart sink, it would be something he said, usually along the lines of ‘I am about to get some good news…..’ In other words he had once again been told he was about to be announced as the winner in some non existent prize draw.

It was heart breaking to hear those words knowing that all the time you had spent telling him not to do it and all the reassurances he had given that it had stopped had been a lie.

Many, many times this happened & in the end the trust between us and other family members disappeared completely,on one occasion I was told that someone was coming to see him with ‘good news’. When I questioned him as to who was this person and how did they know him he became very defensive and very angry that I dared to question this obvious good fortune he was about to receive.

He had no idea who this person was, where they were coming from or what their intentions really were. As a family we hung around for days to fend off potentially the person who quite easily would have taken the roof from over his head, or worse.

Our concerns seemed to stimulate further secretive behaviour and we began to notice him being very twitchy and nervous around us when he was up to something, I became further concerned when my father seemed to in one year to be trying to dole out money to family members to the next year having no food in the cupboards his excuse was that there was nothing he wanted.

When I told him I was very worried as to whether he had any money to support himself, he told me yes and showed me the page of a bank statementthis showed he had some £3k in his account but what I needed to see was the previous pages where it showed a bank loan going in for £6k and the £3k he had spent in a matter of 4 months.

The spend was purely on scams including direct debits set up to pay regularly to the Canadian lottery,when the bank was challenged they showed in his account amounts going out and later back in where they had picked up his account being skimmed.

He had paid no attention to this and was not even aware of what was going where and to whom. After this episode and a distressing and tearful meeting with the bank the loan was stopped, the interest on what was owed frozen, and as a family we all had to club together to pay the bank back.

This led to the begrudging handover of his finances to a family member, where it has remained and is carefully managed to ensure bills are paid. This loss of freedom of access to his account has led to vicious arguments because of the frustration of not being able to send money to these people that purport to being his best friend and ‘the only ones he can trust’. 10 years down the line and my father has no relationship with some of his children.

They cannot accept his behaviour, in particular the deceit around hiding his activities, he cannot be trusted and it is clear even now that he is in the grip of scam fever – everything and everywhere we go we are bombarded with stuff that is a slippery slope back down for him.

I dread him getting the scratch cards inside the paper supplements that all say he is a winner! But thankfully we have his phone blocked to premium line numbers. We have tried the route of mental assessments for my father.

To my mind he developed this obsession after the loss of my mum. I believe strongly that he suffered traumatically as mum died a hideous and lingering death from cancer,however other family members disagree strongly leading to conflict.

The brothers think his ability to hide and deceive means that he is quite capable and knows exactly what he is doing, my thoughts are that he is lonely, has not mourned properly, has never been in a position to budget and see things realistically and has grown up in a generation that thinks you can trust everyone.

To bring you up to date, his post is now voluntarily redirected. We still receive up to 50 letters a week, 99% of them are scams asking for money, most from abroad.Most ask for around £15 admin fee with each letter. Sometimes the same letter is received on the same day but three lots!

He has received letters and responded to ones from Readers Digest – many of them are scams of the company. He has a house full of tat and books, DVDs and videos of things he has no interest in.

In fact many of the things he accumulated he has tried to pass on to family members unopened, some of the stuff he got he couldn’t;t use anyway e.g. he does not have a DVD player! He has spent hours and days moving letters he had yet to respond to around, trying to find a way of paying every one out of his meagre pension, by the deadlines each letter gave, getting himself more and more distressed.

I sat and watched this in front of my eyes and couldn’t believe the stress these thieves were putting my father under he was effectively being mugged in his own home and was unable to stop it.

On his most recent long stay at hospital (3 months) his post filled two large carrier bags, The letters came from prize draws, clairvoyants, mystics, magical hair restorer products (he has a full head of hair), etc.. Every low life out there has my fathers details, every one looking to suck that last bit of life out of him, each one telling him how important he is.

When he was confronted with the volume all at once he appeared shocked to answer just what was coming in he would have needed triple his income just to respond, at this point he agreed for his mail to be redirected.

I still believe that given responsibility for his finances and his post again, he would do exactly the same thing he cannot help himself as these scammers have well and truly brain washed him and turned him against his family.

We found out he had been warned not to respond by the people at the post office – I forgot to say, although he had handed over his banking to a family member, he was using the cash allowance we gave him to buy postal orders to continue replying.

Even this was ignored and I believe they were told to mind their own business. The thing about these letters are that they are seductive, they suck you in if you give them the opportunity by reading them. They become more and more seductive as time goes on, befriending the person they are addressing, writing to them on first name terms, assuring them of their intentions – that they will do their utmost to ensure the prize money goes to the reader, promising them that they are not far off being declared the winner.

People who are vulnerable and / or desperate, lonely, isolated for whatever reason seek solace from these letters because they are friendly and tell them what they want to hear. How do we stop it? Despite the breakdown in the family, the stress that has now unfolded over a period of 10 years, the tears and anger, we cannot stop these letters coming from abroad.

We cannot stop the postal service delivering them because they are international, we cannot stop anyone from responding to adverts etc as these are in all the papers and magazines. What we can do and is working for us at the moment, is ensuring the post is redirected, the letter box is sealed up, the banking is passed over to someone trustworthy – either voluntarily or by court order, and that the person being targeted is cared for by everyone around him / her.

Take the persons details off the public electoral roll by ticking the box on the registration forms. There is no point in keeping it quiet because of shame or embarrassment. Keeping it quiet means that people who could keep an eye out won’t because they just do not know.

Get involved in neighbourhood watch. Look for people on their own getting lost of post and parcels and find out why they are so popular! For now things are settled in the family. Bridges have been burnt in some places. For myself, I cannot abandon my father, especially in his twilight years. By abandoning him he is being fed to the wolves, they are all around hunting in packs on the weak. My father was there for me all through my life. He was a good father. The best. His recent failings are because he is a victim, systematically targeted and abused by faceless people. He has lost over 10 years in excess of £40k, but he lost so much more as well. These thieves will take the shirt off his back given the chance. Hopefully we have taken that chance away.