You probably get letters that vaguely puzzle you. You don’t remember entering anything but you have won a prize, perhaps money, in the Spanish, Portuguese. Irish Lottery or a valuable prize or holiday. You may have followed them up and found yourself calling a very expensive phone number to find nothing ever came. The holiday was timeshare accommodation only and would cost more in fares and food than one you could book through an agent. To get your lottery prize you would have to pay an admin fee and hand over your bank details.
If you have followed up even one letter your name will go on a mugs list and you will be inundated with scams. You would wonder how any one could fall for such scams. But people do. I met a retired couple who live in idyllic surroundings in rural Perthshire. Their son had become worried when his father borrowed £600 from him. It tran- spired that his father owed over £7000 on his credit card, most of it in small payments to pretend lotteries abroad. Now they had his details they were helping themselves regularly to money he did not have. His only defence was that he had been promised very large wins. Although it was fraud the scammers were abroad and the small individual sums meant that the Credit Card had no liability. He agreed, with reluctance, that his wife would get the post and intercept the scam letters and that his card should be closed so no more money could be taken.
In another case an older man had his finances controlled by his son who noticed the payments going abroad. When he tried to stop his father doing this the old chap proclaimed his right to spend his money how he wished. He asked his visiting carers to post his cheques to the fraudsters. Obviously when the carers found out what was happening they stopped posting his letters.
I spoke to Trading Standards who are launching a scam awareness month in March. They feel that older people living alone are more likely to fall for this fraud. Perhaps they are a bit bored and like the excitement of getting a letter through the post. They really believe that because it is written in black and white they will eventually get some money. There is no one waiting to give you money for nothing but there are criminals looking for ways to get your hard-earned money. Sending money for special prayers and lucky charms won’t help either but will get you on another mugs list. I have had fragments of shell or charms brought into the CAB by people genuinely frightened that if they do not send more money to the senders they will have bad luck or be cursed. I am happy to dispose of these and tell the victims they are safe from harm. Bad things happen. Charms don’t stop them.
If in doubt about a particularly convincing offer telephone the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and ask an adviser. It will cost you a standard rate phone call to be informed about what is a scam and then you can bin the letter.
If you are bored write to the Crier! There is normally something that has annoyed you or interesting memories you can share. Or tell us about any scams you have come across.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is at 7 Atholl Crescent. Drop in is 10am-12 noon, Monday to Friday or phone 01738 450581 for an appointment in the afternoon. 01738 450580 is the Advice Line. Everything is confidential, even the fact that you visited the bureau.