CALLOUS fraudsters have conned a lonely 81-year-old Rustington man out of his £300,000 life savings, police have revealed.
The pensioner, whose identity is being withheld by police, was one of more than 1,500 people in Sussex to have been duped by scam mail.
In this case, the man was donating about £1,000 a year to fraudulent charities.
A further police investigation revealed he had also invested £250,000 in a fake wine company. Other paperwork showed he had diamond investments supposedly worth £46,000 and about £4,000 ‘invested’ in mining plots – but all an elaborate con.
The widower whose only son has died, has no other family left.
Sussex Police said all the investments had commenced with a cold-call over the telephone and soon escalated, leaving his future in jeopardy.
“The home he lives in is now in need of much repair which he cannot afford,” a force spokesman said. “He still lives in the belief that some of the money invested in the scams will come back to him, as he cannot cope with the knowledge he has lost his life savings.”
Police say this is just the tip of the iceberg, with hundreds of elderly people thought to have been targeted, and losing millions of pounds.
Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones said: “We have seen victims who have lost their entire life savings and prefer to send their pension to the scammers rather than buy food and pay for heating. Several of our victims have incurred large debts and their quality of life has been massively affected. Sadly, we have even encountered examples where victims suffer anxiety, depression and in one case attempted suicide.”
The force, working with the Metropolitan Police and the National Scams Hub, has launched Operation Signature to detect fraud victims.
Chief Supt Jones explained the scams usually involved the victims receiving letters and phone calls from overseas claiming they have either won money and need to send a percentage of the ‘winnings’ to claim their prize or that they should send money in with competition entries.
Some scams include fake charities sending out catalogues offering cheaply made goods, cakes and biscuits at exorbitant prices.
Many scam rings are based overseas and often share victims’ details, resulting in some people receiving a huge influx of scam mail.
Chief Supt Jones added; “This is a mean and heartless crime that targets elderly, vulnerable and often lonely people.”
Victims of scam mail should call police on 101.