Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fraud Alert - Scam Mail and your loved one's

My mother passed away about 6 years ago. About 5 years ago my Dad got a computer so he could email me and my brothers and "keep in touch". He would occasionally forward me an email that told him he won huge sums of money either in Euro's or USD or some great prize. They were so compelling, he was 'sure' he had won. Of course I would tell him these are all scams or phishing emails and after some convincing on my part, he would finally delete the email.

My Dad turned 87 last April and whenever we visited him we would notice that his dining room table was covered in letters from companies 'shouting' out to him that he had won $30,000 or $100,000 or millions of dollars or a new Ford Mustang Convertible car or trip or holiday etc. All he had to do was send $25 or $50 or similar amounts as a "processing fee" or "administration fee" or some type of fee to hold his winnings or begin the process. We would ask him about the letters, but he assured us that they were just junk mail and that he only liked to read them and would eventually throw them out.

We did not know the extent to which my Dad was answering these letters and sending cash or cheques in the mail until we finally gained access to his bank accounts. He had sent hundreds of letters back to these people and had written more than 100 cheques and paid out probably $1000's of dollars and maybe more than $10,000 to these scammers. We have no idea of the total amount he got tricked into sending to these fraudsters.

Very recently, we found out that my father has progressive Alzheimer's and we've moved him into a long term care facility. We never knew that answering these letters gave my father something to do and gave him false hope that he would receive the money or prizes. These letters with their promises became my Dad's new reality. When we cleaned out my Dad's apartment, in many of his drawers and "private" storage areas we found many pieces of fake ruby jewels with fake gold chains inside cheesy red velvet (plastic) bags. He had paid $20, $30 or even $50 for some of these pieces of junk. Good grief! He never told any of us about this world he was participating in.

We had his mail forwarded to my home address in late December 2012 and my wife and I have been receiving and opening his mail for about a month now. Some days we receive only 2 or 3 pieces of junk/scam mail addressed to my Dad. Other days there were 10 to 15 or even more pieces of mail on one day!

It's absolutely shocking the amount of "scam mail" he receives that claims he has won lotteries, prizes, trips and more. Once an unsuspecting person sends payment to these scammers, they sell the list of 'suckers' to other scammers and it snowballs.

These are all fraudulent scammers from all over the world. Some of these letters are from the Netherlands, others from Hong Kong, The Middle East and parts of Africa. These countries must have loose mail fraud laws or maybe inexpensive mailing costs. Very little of these letters originate from Canada or the USA.

Yesterday, we received a piece of mail from the New Scotland Yard Metropolitan Police Department in the UK! See a copy of the letter below.

My Dad had sent money to one of these Mass Mail Marketing Fraudsters and the police in the UK were intercepting payments sent by unsuspecting people like my Dad and retaining the letters and payments as evidence in their investigation.

The letter from the police indicates that they are no longer taking action with this matter and they returned my Dad's $25 cash he had sent in the mail. Wow! What a world we live in.

Also, along with the letter to my Dad, the police from Scotland Yard included a brochure containing information and advice about scam mail and a campaign they have in the UK called Think Jessica The statistics are astounding. Mail scams in the UK cost consumers about 3.5 billion pounds per year! You can read more at this link about Think Jessica.

I'm posting this on my blog because many of my clients and friends are about my age and have parents or family that are in their 70's or 80's and they are most susceptible to these types of crimes.

If you see a pile of letters sitting on your families table, ask many questions about what they are doing with the letters and try to help them avoid being scammed by these fraudsters like my Dad was!

I wish you and your family All the best!

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