Debbie R from Yorkshire

Debbie R from Yorkshire contacted Think Jessica having seen a piece about scam mail on BBC Breakfast News programme. Her story was sent to Think Jessica by email. At the age of 85, my Father had been enjoying a long, comfortable and secure retirement, having been a hard working, and ultimately very successful, businessman. The scam letters started in May 2005, followed a short time later by scam telephone calls. Both had the same aim; to take advantage of, and rob, my Father. Which is just what they did, around £54,000 is what they stole from him over a two year period.

Once he had responded to the first, volumes rapidly increased until he was receiving up to 100 per day. The more he responded to, the more it seems he was sent. The volume of paperwork initially took over the kitchen table, then included the dining table, and within a short time every available surface in the house was covered with bundles awaiting opening, others opened awaiting a response and those that he was actively working through.

It soon became apparent that he was convinced that he was involved in a legitimate business venture . No amount of explanation, reasoning, cajoling or argument could convince him that he was being conned. He was convinced he was back in business, on the path to financial security, which ironically he already had. He was convinced, partly as a result of the “confidential” nature of much of the literature, and the telephone grooming, which warned him to ignore doubters, not to discuss these highly lucrative and confidential matters with anyone else (especially close family), that doubters were the “misguided” ones. He knew best, He was the only that that truly understood the ‘business’ he was involved in. He deeply resented the intervention by those trying to help him.

The telephone calls then began, several daily, again highly confidential, telling him that he had ‘won’, or was otherwise due to receive huge sums of money. He did of course have to forward large fee’s or ‘duty’ in order to receive these sums. They groomed him as a paedophile would a child, gleaning family information, in order to ingratiate themselves, and become his “friends”. They really are beneath contempt.

Obviously the loss of the money mattered a great deal, from enjoying a secure and comfortable retirement, he is now almost entirely dependant upon his monthly pension income. But it was not the most devastating consequence. Not only did they rob him of his money, they took his health.

The physical ordeal of an 85 to 87 year old man, feeling compelled to respond to 60-100 letters per day, took its toll on his health. His obsession with completing the paperwork, working long hours from early in the morning till late at night, shunning all distractions such as family and friends, opening, reading, form filling and sending varying amounts of money, all to strict ‘time sensitive’ deadlines finally took it’s toll, and he eventually suffered numerous mini strokes, followed by a full stroke, which has left him with swallowing difficulties, vascular dementia and serious memory loss.

The emotional pain and heartache that they have caused his family, particularly me, his daughter and only child, are beyond reckoning. Every day, for several years as he obsessed over these letters, he withdrew from society, he had no time for anything other than the letters, his health declined, and I was desperately trying to get help from anywhere, to try and stop him squandering his closing years.

The only reason my Father eventually stopped actively participating in this fraud was when he finally ran out of money at the bank, and I was eventually able to get his mail re-directed to myself for screening. Given the opportunity, and physical ability, I am sure he would resume again.

These scam letters and phone calls HAVE to be stopped. Everyday they are destroying peoples lives. The help I have received from the ‘authorities ‘ has been minimal. Not necessarily because they don’t care, I have received vast quantities of lip-service, but because their practical legal powers are extremely limited.

It is long overdue that Government get their act together and produce legislation to prevent this massive ugly fraud that is going on all over the country.

Why are the Royal Mail allowed to continue aiding and abetting these criminals by continuing to deliver this vile literature ? They are guilty by association, and actively condoning the fraud by accepting this mail (and making money!) for delivery within this country!

As a final comment, I now believe my poor Father had already started having vascular problems, which is why he started participating in the first instance, although of course I cannot prove this. Promoting this problem may well help family and/or carers identify the problem, but no amount of advice would stop someone like my Fathers active participation. Although it was not obvious at the time, he was quite clearly a vulnerable victim. I, as his family and main carer, need the legal backing to stop this participation. Stop him receiving these letters and prevent his active participation in his own exploitation.

This is a brief version of events, I will try to produce a fuller account, if anyone would find it useful ?