Conmen preyed on my parents

The Sidmouth couple were receiving 100 pieces of scam mail every week, including claims for fake prizes, letters from clairvoyants and offers for sham medical products. The Sidmouth couple were receiving 100 pieces of scam mail every week, including claims for fake prizes, letters from clairvoyants and offers for sham medical products.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
7:30 AM

A DAUGHTER has told of a ‘nightmare’ two-year battle to protect her elderly parents from fraudsters - who were swindling the couple out of £2,000 a month.

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Some of the scam mail received by the elderly coupleSome of the scam mail received by the elderly couple

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her loved ones, described how they became targets for scammers who were sending 100 pieces of mail every week, including claims for made-up prizes, appeals from bogus charities and offers for sham medical products.

Her parents, both Sidmouth residents, suffer from dementia and had become willing participants in the scams – oblivious to the fraud until she stepped in to help.

She has spoken out to warn others of the extent to which residents in the town are preyed on by crooks from around the globe.

“It has been such a traumatic experience,” she said. “You just want to make sure your elderly relatives can stay in their own home and have enough money to live on – which they wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t got involved.”

Some of the poor quality medical products peddled by the scammers were specifically targeted at pensionersSome of the poor quality medical products peddled by the scammers were specifically targeted at pensioners

The problem began two years ago after her parents entered a competition that had come in the post, and quickly became worse after their details were shared among fraudsters as part of a ‘suckers list’.

“I realised it was a problem when I saw this post everywhere in their house,” she said. “To you and me it’s obvious these letters are a scam, but they just didn’t see it.”

One of the most common scams tells the recipient they have won a large cash sum, and that a small administration fee is required to claim the prize.

Another offers placebo medicines targeted at the elderly - creams claiming to help with arthritis and patches to cure various ailments.

But when she tried to intervene, her parents refused to believe they were being conned.

“They thought I was trying to control everything,” said the daughter. “It would lead to arguments because they didn’t want to stop – they were convinced they would win these prizes.

“The whole thing really has been a nightmare,” she said. “I really think we need to educate the community on what to look out for to help protect their loved ones.”

Over 65s lost £1.5billion to fraudsters last year in the UK. Mark McGlade, managing director of East Devon care provider Home Instead, said that the problem could be worse in places like Sidmouth.

He added: “Seven out of 10 over 65s in the UK are being targeted every week by scammers.

“We know that a higher proportion of older people fall foul of these scams, and there are a much higher proportion of older people in Sidmouth than in other parts of Devon.”

A free presentation looking at how to guard against online, postal and telephone scams is set to take place at Sidmouth Library on April 3 between 11am and noon.

n Do you know of somebody, or have you yourself been directly affected by similar fraudsters? Please write to:- harvey.gavin@archant.co.uk

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