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Scam mail is blackmail – Think Jessica campaign

October 16, 2009
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As followers of this site are well aware, we have been doing our level best for some time to alert residents to the scams we come across. We also alert Kingston Trading Standards every time we come across a new one. The following is extracted from a press release issued by RBK today:-

Kingston Trading Standards are supporting a national poster campaign that is hitting back at the criminals who are conning consumers into sending them more than £3.5 billion each year.

The hard-hitting ‘Scam Mail is Blackmail’ poster campaign running across the country is helping to raise awareness of the scourge of scam letters that are tricking victims into sending millions of pounds to fraudsters.

According to research by the Office of Fair Trading £350 million is lost by consumers in the UK every year to prize draw, foreign lottery and clairvoyant scams alone.

The posters include a new free advice line 0800 848 88 55, sponsored by British Gas, and a message from money saving expert, Martin Lewis, who says:
“It is time we yelled the message out that people asking for money for dodgy contests or goods that the consumer never asked for in the first place are nasty criminals that should be avoided.”

Campaigner Marilyn Baldwin’s mother Jessica fell victim to postal criminals – she received more than 30 scam letters a day, and sent out most of her pension every week to criminals.

Marilyn says the situation quickly spiralled out of control to a point where she became distrustful of her own family, while remaining convinced she would soon win a large sum of money.  When her money started running out she became anxious and her health started deteriorating.

Jessica Looke died on 24 October 2007.  Her daughter Marilyn is certain that the torment from the scam mail, by this time filling parts of her house, was partly to blame.

Marilyn says: “Straight after my mother died I knew I had to do something.  I had tried to get help for five years, without success, and had had to just watch my mum getting increasingly gripped and destroyed by these criminals. I set up ‘Think Jessica’ to raise awareness about this awful fraud whose many victims are suffering in silence, and to hopefully bring about change so that they can be reached and helped.”

Earlier this year The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in one day intercepted £500,000 in cash in letters sent by 22,000 UK residents to a single scam.
Marilyn said: ‘Without the raid we would have never known about these 22,000 people who were probably also sending money to countless other scams.  Most victims don’t tell anyone they are responding to these letters.  Most people who contact me for more information are family members, not the victims themselves.  ‘It is the silent victims we have to worry about – the statistics about the people who do come forward are only a tip of the iceberg.’

Scams expert Paul Wilson, who has been raising awareness of numerous cons on the BBC TV programme ‘The Real Hustle’, is also backing the awareness initiative, saying:
“Throughout my career I have come across a lot of scams and trickery. There isn’t enough awareness about scam mail and sucker lists, which really are incredibly sinister.  We can all help by spreading the message and by watching out for anyone we know who might be receiving an unusual amount of post.’

These scams take a number of forms, but the most typical involve clairvoyants asking for money to keep loved ones safe or promises of a lottery win or a big cash prize for a ‘small fee’.   Replying to just one of these letters will result in the victim being placed on a ‘suckers list’ which in turn will see the amount of scam post rapidly multiply to dozens of letters per day.

Lead Officer on scams with the Trading Standards Institute, Graeme Preston, says: “Marilyn’s campaign is ground-breaking in raising the awareness of the scourge of postal scams.  These crimes are perpetrated in the person’s own home and are especially reprehensible in that the scammers befriend the person by letter and telephone, often over a long time.

The cost to repeated victims can run into tens of thousands of pounds each, but the emotional effect on them and their loved ones can be immeasurable.  Trading Standards has a vital role in working with partner agencies towards tackling those responsible for these crimes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mr D Hunt permalink
    May 31, 2011 8:47 am

    Most of these postal scams contain a freepost return envelope, just do what I do, place all the rubbish into the envelope and post it back to them. They have to pay the return postage , Royal Mail earn more revenue (hopefully keeping prices down) and you get the satisfaction of knowing that it’s costing the scammers time and money.

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