Special report: Beat the scam mail con men

Thousands of pounds were paid out by people in Northamptonshire after scammers pushed their luck with mail through the door last year
Thousands of pounds were paid out by people in Northamptonshire after scammers pushed their luck with mail through the door last year
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Thousands of pounds were paid out by people in Northamptonshire after scammers pushed their luck with mail through the door last year.

Scams can come in a variety of guises, including a lottery or prize draw, investment scam, courier scam or PPI scam.

But Home Instead in Higham Ferrers, a branch of the national care firm which helps people remain independent and live in their own home, is trying to stop county people falling victim to it.

The firm has sponsored Think Jessica, a national campaign raising awareness of scam mail and supporting victims and their families.

Sue Homer, who works for the Higham Ferrers branch, will also be going out to talk to groups about the problem and offer advice.

She said: “People need to be aware.

“The scammers will use all channels of communication.

“I don’t think people realise the scale that this is on, it’s frightening.”

Think Jessica was launched after a woman called Jessica was repeatedly tricked into sending cash and making money transfers to criminals over five years.

Her family tried to make her understand she was being scammed, but she refused to believe it.

She thought the bogus clairvoyants and officials were her friends.

When she died in 2007 at the age of 83, she was still waiting for her prizes and about 30,000 scam letters were removed from her home.

Jessica’s story highlights how easy it can be to become a victim, and Sue wants to alert elderly and vulnerable people in the county to the problem.

She said: “There are 700,000 potential victims nationally and £350,000 was paid out from Northamptonshire alone last year.

“We thought we would embrace the campaign locally.

“We have given the leaflet to all of our clients and carers so they can be on the lookout for that sort of mail coming through the door.

“There’s lots of literature to help older people become scam aware.

“I am going out to do presentations so if any club or society would like me to do a presentation, I have got everything ready.

“We want to reach out to all groups, societies, clubs and carers.”

Northamptonshire County Council also wants people to be aware of scam mail.

A spokesman for trading standards in the county said: “Imagine getting bombarded with scam letters every day.

“You might think that some of these letters are real and the prizes and offers they include are genuine so it’s possible that you could be persuaded to send some money.

“This is a despicable scam where often the most vulnerable people are targeted and can end up paying out thousands of pounds.

“Our message is very clear – do not respond to these letters and do not send any money.

“No genuine lottery or competition would ask you to buy goods or send money to claim your prize.

”Anyone who has concerns about a scam can get trading standards advice by telephoning 08454 040506.”

If you would like a presentation about scam mail or a copy of the scam mail booklet, email sue.homer@homeinstead.co.uk or call 01933 358708.

Most common scams targeting older people:

Lottery and prize draw scams

Victims are told they have won a large cash prize but are asked to send a fee to release it. Generally the prizes are from competitions the victim has never entered.

Clairvoyant scams

The scammer writes a generic letter, showing false concern and pretending they are going to a lot of trouble to give the reader good health, wealth and happiness.

Clairvoyant scammers will often blackmail their victims by telling them they will be plagued by bad luck if they don’t send money.

PPI scams

Victims receive a call from someone claiming to be from a claims handling company.

They are told they have been awarded compensation for mis-sold payment protection insurance but need to give their bank details and make a payment to release the funds.

Courier scams

Scammers call the victim claiming to be from their bank and say their debit or credit card needs collecting.

The victim is instructed to hang up and call the bank back to ensure it is genuine, but the scammer stays on the line, tricking them into thinking they’re calling their bank.

The fraudster will ask the victim to key in their PIN number before sending a courier to collect the card.

The victim is told the card is going to the bank to be changed but actually the scammer keeps it and uses it to buy goods or withdraw funds from the victim’s account.

Catalogue and brochure scams

Scammers send out literature selling a variety of different products including jewellery, wines, clothing and items for the home and garden.

They guarantee prizes or rewards to those who order but the prize is never sent.

Instead, they send out even more dazzling promises in order to get more orders.

Phishing scams

Older people are increasingly receiving messages either via post or email which appear to be from a legitimate company, asking them to update or verify their personal information.

Often they pose as banks or building societies, saying there is a problem with their account and asking for sensitive details or cash.

Other common scams include:

Missed call scam, fake charities, internet fraud and identity theft.

National statistics from Think Jessica:

Some elderly and vulnerable people are receiving more than 100 scam letters a day

22,000 victims replied to one scam mailshot and sent £500,000 in one day

There are 700,000 potential victims of scam mail nationally

How to stay scam safe:

Never send cash, disclose personal details or buy goods to claim a prize. Watch out for secret deals, get rich quick schemes, claims and inheritance notifications. Always seek professional advice before signing up for any type of investment scheme, including land, wine and property

If you receive a suspicious phone call, remember you don’t have to get into discussions over the phone with anyone and never give out any personal information, such as bank or credit card details

For more information about the Think Jessica campaign, visit www.thinkjessica.com

If you have concerns about a scam or want advice contact the county’s trading standards branch by calling 08454 040506

If you would like a presentation about being scam aware, call Sue Homer on 01933 358708 or email sue.homer@homeinstead.co.uk

A variety of guises

Police in Northamptonshire put out a warning about a phone scam operating in the county last week.

Officers said there have been a number of incidents recently

where people have been telephoned by fraudsters and asked for their bank card details or cash.

On these occasions, the victims became suspicious and called the police.

However, in five incidents during January, people in the county were tricked into giving away their bank details, including one case where the victim handed over £3,000.

The callers claim to be police officers or bank officials who are investigating a fraud and ask for the victim’s card and bank details so they can check with the bank.

They also tell the victims they will send a courier to pick up their bank card and any cash they may have recently withdrawn, in case it is counterfeit.

If the person becomes suspicious, the offender may suggest they hang up and call the police or the bank to get confirmation that the caller is who they say they are. This is part of the con.

The offender will keep the phone line open at their end so when the victim makes the phone call, they go straight back through to them.