Scams defraud elderly & vulnerable people of £3.5 billion

23rd January, 2013

Most of us are familiar with letters that offer us deals that are too good to be true. Most of us ignore them and consign them to the bin where they belong.

My Aunt’s story

Until recently I thought that is what everyone did. Until I discovered, after my aunt died, that she had been conned out of over £40,000 in a year. We don’t know how much she had given to fraudsters in the many years before that. It has been very distressing to find that my aunt, who was an intelligent and able person, was systematically preyed on by criminals who exploited her good nature with false promises about improved health as well as money. The money she spent was my uncle’s life savings. He died a year before and whilst we believe my aunt had sent smaller sums in the past, the requests for money increased after his death. So in 11 months she was robbed of all this money and ended up overdrawn at the bank.

The scale of the fraud

It made me think about how many other people may be in the same position. Since discovering my aunt’s situation I have been doing my own research into these scams and have been horrified at the scale of the fraud. Literally billions of pounds a year are being stolen from some of the most vulnerable people as described by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. They published ‘Financial Crime against Adults’ last December which reveals how vulnerable adults are exploited by apparent friends, family, small-time fraudsters and organised criminals alike, suffering losses ranging from a few pounds to millions of pounds.

It also reveals how previously independent people are being left with nothing after falling victim to organised crime gangs, and to make matters worse are unwilling or unable to engage with any providers of adult social care.

Financial crime is recorded as the second most common type of abuse experienced by older people in the UK, with approximately 86,500 people aged 66 and over subject to financial abuse over a 12 month period.

Think Jessica is a campaign run by Marilyn Baldwin whose mother was a victim of this crime. It has a very helpful website which contains many stories explaining how these scams work. Anybody who is concerned about this should look at the website.

Criminals worldwide are hunting down the most fragile members of our society by “working” from mailing lists which categorise people as being elderly or vulnerable in some way.

Scam mail is designed to shut down the normal thought process and dazzle the mind. A chronic scam victim is someone who is repeatedly taken in by scams. These victims can only focus on the fictitious prizes, not the money they are sending to claim them.  After replying to the first ‘tempter’ letter victims’ names are put on what criminals call ‘suckers’ lists. They sell these lists to other scammers all over the world. Bogus lottery officials, solicitors, bankers, clairvoyants and other fictional characters work together and send out mail designed to create a delusional world which can become a chronic victim’s reality. These criminals use the voice of authority, swear vulnerable victims to secrecy and make threats. Scam letters and associated phone calls have” worried” some elderly people into transferring their life savings to criminals abroad. Five victims are known to have committed suicide.

A call to action

There are many stories on the internet and helpful websites and this is my small attempt to increase awareness of these crimes and to help prevent this exploitation. The BBC highlighted this issue here and here. All of us should check with our relatives to see if they are a victim. I am raising this issue here in Leicester and I urge anyone who is reading this to do so. Get in touch with your Councillor, get them to arrange for their council’s scrutiny committee or cabinet to discuss the issue. The report referred to above provides a good starting point.

These Frauds can be reported on the Action Fraud website here. More information is available on known scammers from the FSA

I am also investigating how the perpetrators of these crimes can be brought to justice and stopped, as it is still happening every day to many people.

I would like to collect evidence and hear your story so if you have any experience of this please e-mail me.
You can also leave a comment on this topic below.


Thank you for your help


Silence is scammers best friend. Please help stop them by reporting scams to Action Fraud NOW !


P.S. Scam issue makes front page of Leicester Mercury





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