12 Jan 2006, 04:25:23 PM

Reporter: Helen Wellings

They're the longest-running scams in the world - fake overseas lotteries and clairvoyant's heartless money-making schemes. They've fleeced millions of dollars from thousands of hopefuls around Australia... money that's simply made the promoters rich.

Allan Donaldson's 89 year old mother, Amy Donaldson, is now in a retirement village, but for over 4 years she's been hit with 8 or 9 letters a DAY guaranteeing she's won from $1500 to $2 million euros. Believing it, she kept sending her savings, a staggering $20,000 to $30,000 in total, to register for the promised win.

Allan warns, "There are probably people out there that the same thing is happening to and I want to let them know it's a scam and that you are being conned."

His wife Anne adds, "If my Mother-in-law has shelled out $20,000 how much have others given? .. It's absolutely a low act. I think it is disgraceful that they can use vulnerable people for their own financial gain."

"We're getting clairvoyants, promises to win millions of dollars, lottery tickets .. like this one, "Passport to a Fortune". She's told she's going to be a millionaire, but of course she has to send $54. This one came in the mail today it's shush, be secret about it, and on the back it states, "send $65" .. They're just money grabbing people. And here's what looks like a winning cheque for $10,000 and of course it's a fake from Hicksville New York."The scam letters keep coming, but Allan and Anne are confiscating them to stop Amy being conned further.

Anne says, "People out there who are vulnerable, hoping for the big break that are finding it hard, these people appeal to that side. They're talking about love, maybe they're having a bad time at that particular time... so people seeing that are sucked in and can't see through it."

"We went to Today Tonight to let them know what is going on, and to let others know who are getting these letter to burn them, and to do something to tell the politician to do something about it."

Another huge con - an email announcing you've won a share of Princess Diana's inheritance in $3 million lottery. The promoters lie that set up under Diana's estate by a firm of London solicitors. But send an advance fee to collect your win, and you lose your dough.

"It's really an example of how low some people will go. They'll see a figure like Princess Diana who many people feel great affection for and suck them in that way," warns the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's Michael Dunn. He says unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to trace these overseas scammers.

But here's one ASIC DID catch - an illegal investment scheme, Pegasus Leveraged Options Group run by Sydney man Craig McKim, who's now in gaol. With promises of 5% to 8% PER DAY on investments, 90 Aussies paid in $3.7 million. Then Craig McKim just gambled most of it away, $2.1 million down the drain. ASIC have awarded it the 2006 Pie In the Sky Award for the most outrageous con.

Michael Dunn explains that the simplest thing to do if you are offered an investment opportunity is to inquire whether the person has an Australian Financial Services licence, which they must have to operate an investment scheme.

He says, "A person cannot fake having a license from ASIC. People can check on our website for free to see if someone does have a licence."

These get-rich-quick schemes can sting people from all walks of life - they're so cunning. This year at Today Tonight we're out to expose the scams, the cons that can, if allowed, destroy lives.

Through our Fair Go team we need you, our viewers, to be our eyes and ears. So if you're aware of any scams or a conman operating in your area, you can telephone our Fair Go team.

Don't forget we're here to help you.

Telephone: 08 9344 0848

Address: Channel 7 Perth off Dianella Drive Dianella WA 6059