Stevenage pensioner lured by scammers and sent money for years before Herts watchdog team came to her rescue

Betty's call blocker and telephone next to the scam mail she received in one morning.

Betty's call blocker and telephone next to the scam mail she received in one morning. - Credit: Archant

At least one unexpected approach that 83-year-old scam victim Betty has received was the real deal – because it came from trading standards watchdogs who wanted to help her keep the vultures at bay.

But that welcome contact only came after she had been plagued by phone calls and mail for three years.

It all started when Betty, from Stevenage, started buying health and beauty products from a catalogue.

Before long she was being promised that big winnings were just around the corner, and she wasted hundreds of pounds she couldn’t afford trying to land a prize.

She recalled: “They sent me a letter saying that I’d won £15,000 and that I’d just needed to purchase some products to claim my prize.

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“In three years I have never won a big prize, just vouchers for money off my next orders.”

She could claim money off products included garlic pills and shampoo – but the initial price was well above the market rate.

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Betty found herself shelling out up to £40 for something that was worth less than a tenth of that.

And some she couldn’t even use – her medical history meant that she was afraid to use some products, and just threw them away.

After well as being constantly tempted by the lure of a big win, Betty’s details were also placed on what’s known as a ‘suckers list’ – with her details being sold on to other companies who pestered her with mail and calls because she was considered an easy mark.

At last the trading standards team found a cheque from Betty at the London premises of a firm which they were investigating.

And when they returned it to her they quickly discovered the extent of the problem.

Now the Herts County Council’s anti-fraud team visits her home every week – one of 1,000 visits to addresses across the county in the past 18 months – to remove any scam mail, and they’ve fitted her phone with a device which records all her calls and blocks any coming from abroad.

This is monitored every week and the council contacts any companies it suspects are trying to scam Betty, warning them off.

At one time Betty was getting around five letters and phone calls every day.

But with the team’s help this has fallen drastically and she finally feels that she can move on.

She said: “I feel terrible that I’ve wasted all that money. The last cheque I sent was a few weeks ago.

“It’s a scam and I was taken in by it, but I’m not doing it anymore.”

The team has identified 178 people in Stevenage who are at risk of becoming a victim of scams and is working with them to make sure it doesn’t happen.

July has been designated Scam Awareness Month and a campaign is under way to make sure people know what to look out for.

Councillor Richard Thake, who is responsible for community safety at County Hall, said: “People often don’t realise, or don’t want to accept, that they’re being scammed, so it’s important for us to raise awareness of the tactics scammers use.

“We are encouraging friends and family of our most vulnerable residents to help protect themselves against these scams.”

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