People in the media often talk about boiler room scams as if they are today’s biggest fraud problem.
Apparently it is usually offshore companies who cold-call well-heeled people with an ‘opportunity’ to buy shares that turn out to be worthless, or worth far less than claimed. I can understand that this is worrying and that people are being conned out of large amounts of money.
Yet I have never yet heard anyone on the media talk about a particular con that hits people on very low incomes. I don’t think it has a name, certainly not a media-friendly name like boiler-room scam has. Perhaps it is not interesting because it hits people who already have had a debt problem. Perhaps the media think it is not a scam at all, perhaps these people who claim it is a scam are not telling the truth? Well it is the truth and I know because it has happened to me.
My house was repossessed after I became (through no fault of my own) unemployed. I co-operated as best I could but I was given less on benefits per month than my mortgage payment had been. After the repossession, which I did not dispute, I was told by CAB that they had received notification that I owed nothing on the house, and that strangely the house had realised exactly, down to the last penny, exactly what I owed. I asked for this information to be faxed to me and kept it, and I am glad I did.
I will tell you how the scam works,
Unscrupulous people set up a ‘company’ and then get hold of details of people whose houses have been repossessed, or have had another debt go through court. I don’t know how they do it, but they get hold of these details somehow. (In my case they found the details of the account number and the name of the company with which the account was held.)
Then they search for the person and find their address (if you have had your home repossessed then you will have changed address) and even I know of various methods of finding an individual’s address.
They then send a letter claiming to be the agent for the company with whom they had the debt. The individual panics. Surely the repossession cleared the debt? Having been thought that experience no-one would want to go to court again.
The letters come on letter-headed paper, and in my case the address does not tally with the postmark. I could do a letterhead easily enough. The threats get more and more worrying. The latest, which came today, includes a direct debit form and a threat of court action. It also contains a veiled threat, “if I don’t want to have contact with them” that I will fill in the direct debit form. Contact? Does that mean they will come round here threatening me physically?
I have written to them and told them that I do not owe the money, but still they write, telling me that if it goes to court I will have to take time off work.
This scam has happened to many people, but they are people at the bottom of the heap when it comes to money and power and so the media are not interested.
Yet last week a ‘pensioner’ was scammed out of £35,000 of his money on a ‘get rich quick’ scam and it is headline news in the local paper. Basically he gambled with money he had sat in a bank account, and though I am sympathetic because he was conned, lied to and told that his money was safe, my sympathy has its limits, because he gambled. At the other end of society people are being threatened into making payments of several thousands of pounds which they don’t owe, but are too scared of the consequences of not paying up.
It is a protection racket that no-one seems to do anything about, and the media are not interested in.