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Beware hoax

PUBLISHED: 10:35 12 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK pensioner has been duped of hundreds of pounds by hoaxers promising massive cash rewards in return for cheques from his savings to pay "handling fees".

A SUFFOLK pensioner has been duped of hundreds of pounds by hoaxers promising massive cash rewards in return for cheques from his savings to pay "handling fees".

Maureen Wiseman today warned other potential victims not to fall for the competition scam which fleeced her elderly dad of £285 before Christmas and almost led to him losing thousands of pounds more.

The devastating fraud was exposed when Mrs Wiseman overheard a Canadian company demanding £3,495 from her 85-year-old dad on the phone. The caller said the money was needed to release a £10,000 prize the pensioner had won in a competition.

Charles Dear told his worried daughter it was the third time the company had called asking for his cash.

"Then I got the whole story," explained Mrs Wiseman who lives with her father outside Ipswich. "They said he had won £10,000 but he had to send £3,495 tax first. He had already sent nearly £300 to about six bogus companies."

All the letters followed a similar format either saying he had won a competition or was close to winning cash but needed first to write out a cheque for "handling fees", she said.

"We're still getting about 15 letters a day," she added. "There were 17 this morning. I've just stopped opening them now. Some made it seem like he stood an extremely good chance of winning if he just sent £15. Other ones were stating dates he was going to get the instalments.

"He thought he could treat the whole family as he'd won," she added.

Slamming the hoaxers whom she claimed preyed on the elderly, Mrs Wiseman said the letters – totaling 136 in the last few weeks alone – came from companies all around the world, including Canada, Singapore, Australia, Holland and Hong Kong. The company demanding £3,495 was called GPI Enterprises in Vancouver, Canada, she added.

Mrs Wiseman said she feared other elderly or vulnerable victims may be persuaded to part with scarce savings, tempted by the promise of a massive cash prize already marked in their name.

"He really did believe it was all genuine," said the 59-year-old of her dad. "He's of the generation that thinks if it's there in black and white, it must be true and we kept telling him that the world is not like it was years ago.

"He must have sent over 15 cheques in total. They always said the cheques were for 'handling charges'. At £20 a time, these companies are laughing all the way to the bank. It's definitely a fraud," Mrs Wiseman said.

While her dad has not received a penny of the riches promised to him in return for his cheques, he did get something for his money, Mrs Wiseman added.

"With a few of the things he did they have sent, for example, a £1 trophy bracelet which isn't worth tuppence."

Police are currently investigating the case involving Mr Dear after his daughter reported the scam to officers, a spokesman from the force confirmed.

Viv Wilkinson of Suffolk Trading Standards said the best place for junk mail from abroad was the bin and warned people to be suspicious of any letter that asked for cash up front.

"If you're asked to send money up front then clearly that's a warning you don't part with your money. The best place for unsolicited mail is the bin," she said.

And with letters from abroad, there is often no way of telling if you really have won the cash you are promised or if the company exists.

Preventing junk mail arriving through your letterbox from other countries is difficult, Mrs Wilkinson said, but you can report it to the Advertising Standards Authority who liaise with counterparts abroad. "That' a help," she said. "They work with organisations abroad to try and stop it." You can write to the ASA at 2 Torrington Place, London, WC1I 7HW or call them on 0207 580 5555.

And you can put a stop to junk mail posted in Britain by registering with the Mailing Preference Service. You can contact them on the local rate number 0845 703 4599 and the service is free.

n Have you been targeted by bogus mail drops such as these? Write to Evening Star Newsdesk, 30, Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, telephone 01473 282257 or e-mail us at: starnews@ecng.co.uk


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