Pensioner Scam

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

Sifting through their Mum's belongings they find scam, after scam, after scam…

"Our mother's just passed away and we find this and we wonder why she's broke all the time" says daughter Raylene.

Thousands and thousands of letters, all promising to make their Mum, Elsie Carland, wealthy beyond her wildest dreams. The Perth pensioner believed every fake cheque, every false promise, religiously sending money until the day she died.

Elsie would write letters, pleading for more time, even apologising when she was late with payments. Some never made it to the post, before she died.

"Everything we opened, cupboards, drawers, there was just piles and piles of this mail promising our mother millions of dollars".

Until now, daughters Raylene and Gayle had no idea their Mum was sending so much money overseas.

They've also found envelopes stuffed with cash, stamped and ready to post and then there's the thousands of dollars of worthless trinkets.

"It's all garbage, jewellery that's supposed to be diamonds and rubies, things to hang in her house that are supposed to bring her luck and it's all just rubbish. I guess it didn't work. It's all just cheap rubbish".

The great grandmother believed the scam, not only sending her fortnightly pension, but every penny she had.

"Our father left our mother a house and some other things which would have been enough money to see her through. Now she has nothing at all except for what you see here".

The family home she owned is gone. Elsie spent the last years of her life struggling to survive in state housing.

This is all that's left to show for Elsie Carland's life savings. Worthless bits of paper. It's impossible to add up all the fake cheques in this pile, but we've done a quick calculation. These scams are valued at more than four hundred million dollars. In reality, it's not worth paper it's printed on, but until the very end, Elsie believed, she was sitting on a fortune".

Elsie's son-in-law Phil is furious these scam syndicates can get away with it.

We took the wad of letters to the Department of Consumer Protection, so Commissioner Ann Driscoll could see the scams for herself.

Australians lose a staggering one billion dollars a year to scams. Right now, there are three hundred and eighty different scams out there and if you bite you're hooked and it's almost impossible to stop them because the scams originate overseas, our laws can't touch them. Consumer Protection is now working with Customs to intercept the mail, before they reach your letterbox. The problem is, many letters appear legitimate and The Department must have proof it's a scam, before they can stop it.

According to Consumer Protection there are ways to avoid becoming a victim. Things to look out for: Lotteries which ask you to send money in the mail and those which have a sense of urgency.

Sadly for Elsie Carland the warnings are also too late. It's been a heartbreaking time for her family. These are not the happy memories they were hoping to find in their mum's home. All they can do now is save another family from the same grief.

For more information contact the Department of Consumer Protection

Ph 1300 30 40 54

or visit the Scamnet website for a list of scams at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/wascamnet