Mail order scam: 'Addicted' Bridgend OAP spent £15k

BBC programme Inside Out met victims of a mail order scam who all believed they were the sole winner of thousands of pounds

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A pensioner became addicted to a mail order scam which has duped thousands of vulnerable and elderly people, his daughter-in-law says.

Julie Davies, of Bridgend, said he had spent about £15,000 until his family realised what was happening.

"He has become addicted to it and you can't get him off it," she said.

A BBC investigation uncovered the scam, whose victims thought they had won tens of thousands of pounds.

They receive convincing letters congratulating them on winning and telling them a cheque awaits them.

Victims are then encouraged to order goods from a catalogue in order to get their big prize quickly.

Start Quote

The victims become brainwashed, for want of a better word, and they become addicted and there's absolutely no support”

End Quote Julie Davies Daughter-in-law

Many continued to spend their life savings on goods they did not really want or need because they became convinced they were getting closer to the prize.

"You have to order these goods and they can be anything from £20 upwards for the cost of them," said Ms Davies.

"You can't claim your winnings until you have ordered these goods. The fact is they're never paid out and you are duped into it.

"The victims become brainwashed, for want of a better word, and they become addicted and there's absolutely no support."

Ms Davies said her father-in-law, who is retired, was normally very careful with money.

"This is a guy who won't call in the [motorway] services because it's too expensive for a cup of tea but is spending £20 on so-called vitamin supplements that he can't even take!"

'No legal support'

She said her father-in-law, from Bridgend, refused to believe that it was a scam and "thinks we've stopped him from winning these prizes".

"We're stuck in the middle at the moment because we're probably in a unique situation where we caught our father-in-law and we stopped everything," she said.

"Because we've actually received the goods, we're now getting demand letters... and we're kind of in limbo but there's no legal support out there."

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My message to companies working as a third party to a criminal enterprise is that you are on borrowed time”

End Quote Det Supt David Clarke National Fraud Intelligence Bureau

BBC's Inside Out television programme has highlighted a company in continental Europe which is behind some scam letters, and relies on a UK-based firm to process the orders.

Marilyn Baldwin set up a campaign after her mother was targeted.

"This is a massive crime. In one day, we were alerted to 22,000 victims that had all sent money to the same scam and sent half a million pounds," she said.

Det Supt David Clarke, from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said: "My message to companies working as a third party to a criminal enterprise is that you are on borrowed time.

"My job and that of law enforcement is to close in as quickly as we can to stop you operating, to bring you to justice and to make sure you are seen as part of that criminal conspiracy."

An Office of Fair Trading spokesman added: "Prizes must be genuine and not involve people being hit with additional costs to find out what they have won, or to claim it, or take possession of it".

Inside Out is on BBC One on Monday at 19:30 GMT in BBC South, South East, West, West Midlands, London and the North.

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