Whilst we have received some excellent media coverage, many times Jessica’s story has been inaccurately reported. For instance, the Sunday Mirror printed an untrue version that caused Jessica’s family an immense amount of distress. They have since printed a small correction. Here is the full, correct version.
When Jessica was in her seventies she decided to continue her late husband’s subscription to Reader’s Digest. She got heavily involved in a competition run by Tom Champagne, who convinced her she was on the cusp of winning a large cash prize. To stay in with a chance, she bought hundreds of pounds worth of books, tapes, CDs and various other things she neither needed nor could afford.
She never did receive a prize, but Tom Champagne sent her many cheques made out in her name. Once she tried to pay one into the bank, but Jessica hadn’t spotted the small wording that said the cheque was only a sample. She did however receive something for her loyalty – she was sent a plastic champagne glass to celebrate her win. It never did get used.
Even though her family continually tried to explain that some companies use very devious sales techniques, Jessica was disappointed. She wanted to financially help the ones she loved, and donate money to the children’s charities she cared about so much.
Time passed, then Jessica received a very exciting letter. It looked like an important document, stating that she had won a competition, and if she sent a small fee she would receive a big cheque. Jessica thought this was the big win that she had been waiting for from Tom Champagne and quickly sent off the fee. On the claim form she put down all her personal details.
Fact: Reader’s Digest sell mailing lists.
Unfortunately, the letter wasn’t from Tom Champagne or Reader’s Digest. It was her first scam letter. When family members realised what she had done they tried to explain that she had fallen for a scam, but Jessica had never heard of scam mail and refused to believe them. Of course, no money ever arrived, but the amount of what appeared to Jessica to be fantastic mail started to increase.
Unbeknown to her, the scammers who sent that first scam letter had put her name on a ‘suckers list’ and were selling her details to other criminals all over the world.
Jessica still refused to believe that her ‘good news/excellent news’ mail was only worthless pieces of paper designed to make her part with her cash. As the weeks turned into months the amount of scam mail she was receiving continued to increase. Soon her postman was delivering around 30 letters a day, coming from all over the world. Most of them had Guaranteed Winner, Time Sensitive Document, Reply Immediately to Release Your Award and various other slogans and logos plastered all over them.
Jessica was sending nearly all her pension each week to keep up with the scammers’ demands. So-called clairvoyants had also jumped on the bandwagon and were pretending to be her friends. The more the family tried to make her see the truth about what was happening, the more the arguments erupted.
The clairvoyants convinced her that the family were jealous of her forthcoming wealth, and saying that they were concerned for her welfare. She befriended a certain clairvoyant from Holland – she would send personal letters along with his payment. Others told her that they could see disaster and harm heading towards her or her family, and that if she sent them a fee they could keep bad luck away.
She would often sit up until 3a.m. trying to keep up with the scammers’ demands. She had put so much cash into what she thought was the run up to a huge payout, and had promised to gift money to so many people, she just couldn’t focus her mind on anything else. Jessica had never broken a promise and insisted she never would.
Her family could see every trick that the criminals were playing on her and the way they were all battling for her cash. But Jessica was under the spell. She refused any outside help and even threatened to disown family members if they tried to interfere.
She hoarded the scam mail all over her house – in cupboards, drawers and wardrobes. Her shed was full of knotted carrier bags bulging with scam mail. She continually gave out her phone number and the scammers would phone her late at night.
Nothing else seemed to matter to Jessica. Her life revolved around the hundreds of letters her postman delivered each week. She would go without buying food rather than miss a payment to a scam. Some family members gave up trying to make her see sense and formed the opinion that if she was stupid enough to respond she deserved to be scammed.
Jessica’s obsession made it appear as if she was sending her money willingly, but her youngest daughter, Marilyn, could see her Mum had been brainwashed by the volume and content of the scam mail.
Over some five years, Jessica sent thousands of pounds to criminals, and had also suggested releasing some equity from her house. Fortunately, the house was in the name of her three children, so she couldn’t sell it.
She would start to panic when she couldn’t find enough money to fill all the pre-addressed envelopes with PO box addresses from all over the world. So she stopped paying her domestic bills. She told no one about the financial mess she was in, except her favourite clairvoyant from Holland.
She started having panic attacks and palpitations. One of the clairvoyants, who used fear as a way of extracting money, told her that there was an evil force on a higher plane in her house. Jessica had not been able to cover his ‘fee’ to keep the evil away. Jessica thought that the evil was upstairs. She became breathless and fearful every time she tried to climb the stairs. Her body and mind were at breaking point with the continual torment that the scammers had inflicted on her over the years.
Jessica died October 24, 2007. She was 83 years old. Her death certificate states: ‘Cause of death – pneumonia’.
At the end of July 2007 my Mother was taken in to hospital. She came out after about two weeks but a few days later she started to be violently sick and then she collapsed. She was admitted to hospital again, we were told she had a heart attack but I am not sure if that was confirmed.
It was then I removed around 30,000 scam mail letters from her home. I still have these in storage. I also found letters threatening disconnection from the gas and water board and a letter from a bailiff, threatening to remove the contents of her house.