Vulnerable adults are increasingly common targets for con artists. Scams targeting the elderly and vulnerable are carried out on the phone or online and in some cases can involve the victim attempting to use money transfer services, such as MoneyGram to send money to the scammer.

All too often the vulnerable don't realise they are a victim of crime.

What are postal, online and telephone scams?


What is an advance fee scam?

You may receive a letter or email offering a payment if you can get money to the sender. The scammer might claim to be somebody official like a lawyer or accountant and promise to give a portion of the money in return for help with the transfer but you'll never see the promised payment.

What is a prize draw or sweepstake scam?

Victims are contacted by phone or email stating that they have won the lottery in another country and need to send money for taxes or an administration fee before their winnings can be released.

What is an inheritance scam?

Victims are told that they are receiving a large inheritance from a long lost relative and that they must send money for taxes or fees before they receive any money.

What is romance fraud?

Con artists lower defences by building an online relationship and targeting emotions, before subsequently requesting money

What is a medical scam?

Scammers promise miracle tablets or other medical cures that claim to offer unbelievable results but they leave victims out of pocket with the potential of damage to their health.


Victims of scams

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Charlotte, 74, a repeated victim, admitted to being very secretive, hiding things from her family and friends who tried to stop her being conned. She would not admit how many years she had been responding but said it had been "too long". Charlotte received up to 16 scam mailings per day, each asking for £20 to £30. Over the years, she has sent tens of thousands of pounds to the scammers.


These stories of scam victims were provided by the Post Office. The names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved:

George wanted to send a MoneyGram of £580 to India, after being phoned by an organisation claiming he had to pay to receive an emergency extension on his visa.

Maggie had already sent £9,000 to India and tried to send a further £3,000. She couldn't say why she was sending such large amounts, but mentioned she’d had an issue with her bank account. The person contacting her claimed to be a police inspector and asked her to send cash to resolve the issue.

Robert was buying a guitar from a woman in Ireland who sent an email asking him to send £260 to her brother in Nigeria. He sent the money and, despite being advised against it, later returned to send another £200 before realising he had been deceived.

John sent a £980 MoneyGram to India and returned the next day to send further funds. He had been told by scammers that he would receive £20,000 for doing so.

Southend Scam Envelope

"What we've found is that the scams are constant - there could be ten letters a week."

- Anthony Quinn,
Turning Tides Team Manager (Southend Association of Voluntary Services)

Read Anthony's blog - Turning the tide on scammers

Stopping postal, online and telephone scams in Southend

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We're working with Post Office Limited to prevent elderly victims like Charlotte, George and the others from being conned like this.

By contacting us with information about postal, online or telephone scams, you can't be tracked or traced. This is the case whether you call us on 0800 555 111 or use our Anonymous Online Form.

Could you be at risk of a scam?

There are many ways for con artists to trick you into handing over your cash. Often it's easy to say you wouldn't fall for an obvious scam but are you alert to all the methods con artists use to catch you out? Our Game of Fraud survey asks you all the questions you need to think about if you suspect something is a scam. Why not take the quiz and find out?