Be scam aware
Plymouth residents are being encouraged to be ‘scam aware’ and look out for offers that aren’t all they seem.
While there might be new scams cropping up all the time, the tactics of scammers remain the same. These include:
- Being contacted out of the blue to being pressured to sign up to a deal on the spot
- Receiving an offer that sounds too good to be true or being told to pay an advance fee for an item or service.
Anyone can be a victim of this however these scammers deliberately prey on the vulnerable and isolated, often elderly people and once they send money or provide their personal and private information, their name is added to a scams list which is sold to other criminals and they are retargeted.
If people are in doubt about whether or not an offer is genuine, they should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service or their local Citizens Advice.
If people have been scammed they should report it to Action Fraud.
The National Trading Standards Scams Team run 'Friends Against Scams' there is lots of useful information on their website including how to become a 'Friend Against Scams' yourself!
We will use our Facebook page to highlight current scams - like our page and follow us @AlertsPlymouth
Local case studies
My mum grew up in Bodmin, Cornwall on a farm, she married my dad and although my mum suffered with bi-polar which was not diagnosed until much later in life we had a happy childhood, I was close to mum, we did things together and she supported and helped me in the upbringing up of my older children.
My parents divorced after 20 years of marriage and mum met her second husband at a singles club, they lived in Wadebridge, Cornwall and enjoyed taking the dogs for walks on the beach, mum was a spiritual person. Mum and my step dad moved to Somerset living in the same village as me and my family. However within months mum and my step dad split up, this left mum feeling lonely and although we were around she was feeling isolated. Mum talked about going on the dating sites on the internet and we thought this was a good idea even buying her an IPad, mum wasn’t particularly internet savvy but we thought the sites advertised were safe to use. Mum initially spoke openly to us about who she was meeting and actually had a few dates but this changed when she met this person called Peter.
We started to question mum more about him as she had started to send him money he had said he needed £4,000 for medical fees as his daughter had been in an accident, this was money she didn’t have but mum was caring if she could help someone she would. This is where our relationship started to change, I told her I was starting to think Peter was not the person he says he is, Mum became angry and not wanting to talk to us but then she started to agree and say I think you are right I am going to stop, this was the worst scenario though - she was still talking to him and sending money and I just didn’t know. Mum was moving away from the dating website and using Skype to speak with him.
Mum had now moved to Plymouth and things took a terrible turn when Peter told her to sell all her belongings, which mum did, she was to travel to Leeds to meet up with him, they planned to meet at the Travelodge, he didn’t turn up but rang her to say he had been held up for one reason or another, for several days mum would sit in the front foyer all day waiting for him. The Police had called on her but she refused any help.
Peter was now completely controlling her dictating what she bought what she ate all so they could get at her money, he had also isolated her from the people who cared about her, we believed now, Peter was not one person but several.
Mum returned to Plymouth with nothing, having to spend a night in a hostel and I can’t imagine what that must have been like, then time in a B&B before getting a flat and having to use foodbanks.
Mum though was now speaking with a person called Jacob, she had met him on skype but we think Jacob and Peter are one and the same, he was now feeding her stories of woe and how he needed money urgently, mums bi-polar was now playing a part in her vulnerability, undiagnosed her cognitive skills were severely compromised as she then started to speak with Jerry who again was asking her for help which ultimately meant sending him money.
I felt I had nowhere to turn I didn’t know how to help my mum and neither did anyone else, these people target and spend hours, days, months and years grooming their victims and don’t care about the ramifications this has on entire families.
My mum passed away from a stroke in 2017, I believe this was brought on by the stress and realisation this was all a scam, we as mother and daughter had become estranged. Whilst dealing with her affairs it came to light she had died owing thousands of pounds and I found presents mum had wrapped with name tags on for these men, waiting for the day they would come – they didn’t. After the Police investigation I was given back my mum’s IPad, when I turned this on, there were messages from Peter asking where Iris had been, she was not responding to his messages and he was worried.
He is still sending her messages.
My mum has gone and I don’t think in her later years she was ever shown the kindness she wanted to give to others. I hope this story helps those or knows anyone this happening to.
Iris was a lady like anyone else; she had faced life’s trial and tribulations like most people do but she then became caught up in a scam that would totally ruin her life.
After separating from her husband Iris joined a dating site, she met a few men but nothing really developed however she started an on-line relationship with Peter, and this started a chain of events which would come dominate Iris’ life.
After grooming Iris for several months Peter told Iris his daughter had an accident and he needed to borrow £4000.00 for medical costs.
In 2015 Iris transferred through MoneyGram in excess of £5,000 to Ghana to a male using the name of ‘Peter’
Iris then gave up accommodation and sold her possessions to move closer to Peter in Yorkshire, Peter never turned up and after waiting for days she returned to Plymouth and was placed in emergency accommodation.
Iris was now speaking with a man called Jacob who she had met on Skype, he lived in Texas USA. Jacob had a contract in Ghana, building an orphanage; Jacob wanted to visit the UK and requested the funds through MoneyGram transfers.
Jacob’ made further claims for money stating his son, named of Romel had died and that Romel had been paying for his accommodation in Ghana leaving Jacob in financial difficulty. Jacob asked Iris to then begin transferring money to a female in the name of ‘Priscilla’ who he stated was a restaurant owner he owed money to.
In 2016 Iris transferred monies to a male using the name Jacob, transferring in excess of £2,000 to an account in Ghana.
Then there was Jerry he also claimed to be from the USA, specifically Massachusetts, and was working as a builder in Ghana. Jerry stated whilst in Ghana he had been robbed and requested emergency funds. Iris started to express concerns to Jerry over previous transfers to Jacob and Peter.
Jerry promised to assist in getting her money back – however, to do this he needed further funds from Iris to pay for this. Jerry then asked for the username and password for Iris’ Skype account so that he could track Peter and Jacob. Iris handed these over effectively giving full control of her account to the fraudsters preventing police from closing the account and safeguarding Iris.
In 2017 Iris was contacted by a male using the name of Jerry and transferred in excess of £1000 through MoneyGram to Ghana.
Troublingly, at one point in time, both Jerry and Jacob had the same profile picture on their Skype accounts; however they were able to convince Iris that their accounts had been hacked and they were real people.
In Iris’ mind these people were her friends she couldn’t see that they were scamming her, they had worked on her for years isolating her from her family, manipulating her thoughts, reassuring her they only wanted what was best for her. Her family were feeling helpless, Iris had hidden this from them, her mental health had also been affected.
Whilst the Police were investigating this, an officer from Trading Standards visited iris. Iris told her all about what had happened and the officer was able to support her in the realisation these men were not who they said they were and more than likely one and the same.
Iris has since passed away it is believed the stress was a contributing factor in her death, she died owing thousands of pounds, she had lost control of her final years never finding the happiness she had longed for.