How conmen took Norfolk woman’s savings

Manipulative confidence tricksters duped an elderly woman into paying more than �132,000 during a year-long process of manipulation and intimidation. The woman, who is a 75-year-old retired businesswoman, does not want to be identified for fear of retaliation but says she wants others to be aware of scams 'that rob you of your money and good health'.

The lady, known as Diana, has lived with her husband in north Norfolk for many years and retired to enjoy the rewards of running a small business and inheriting a modest legacy from her mother. Their two children were going about their own careers and lifestyles, and still regularly communicate with their parents. Diana's husband has a long-term illness and is on permanent medication.

It may seem unlikely that an intelligent, business-experienced woman could be duped into handing over so much money.

But Diana succumbed to a skilful ploy which slowly gains total control by a team which manipulates victims until they are accepted as a close friend. She agreed to talk about the nightmare which eventually made her so ill that she ended up in hospital.

She said she would always tear up and bin junk mail, and 'enticing letters', but admitted she supported local organisations and charities by buying raffle tickets.

'I suppose it's everyone's dream to win a lot of money and treat the family and I can't remember the last time I bought a lottery ticket.'

It was during May 2009, while her husband was ill, that Diana received a 'phone call from a man who introduced himself as John Morgan', who, with a slight accent and pleasant voice, told her she had just won �500,000 on the Sidney Gold Canadian Lottery.

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'I was so surprised and couldn't remember if he said dollars or sterling at the time.'

The man on the phone told Diana that he would sort everything out and get back to her regarding payment of the prize.

'I was over the moon – I truly believed him. Usually I am very sceptical about these sort of things, but I felt excited that some luck had come into our lives.'

Within a short period of time this man was back on the phone to Diana. 'He told me there would be some transfer fees and taxes to pay and suggested he could 'speed things up' if I sent him �324 straightaway.'

Diana did as he asked after he gave her a certain instructions to conform to. 'I didn't tell my husband about it, I just went straight to my local post office and sent the money,' she sighed. 'I thought it would be a wonderful surprise for my family and solve a lot of problems.'

Now that she had taken the bait, Diana was subjected to a systematic badgering from the bogus Canadian lottery representatives with regular phone calls from British representatives who said they were dealing with Inland Revenue who would have to be paid as well. 'They told me I would probably have to pay these fees and I did not question the reasons as they seemed so plausible.'

Apart from John, from the Vancouver office who first contacted Diana, more of the conspirators came on the scene in various guises, Chris Malone (in England), Mary Knox from Canada, and Susan Meila, Dennis Golder and James L Smith – all suggesting they were part of the team and 'officially' arranging her big win! Within four months, Diana had paid more than �40,000.

The long process of confidence gaining began to lead to intimidation after Diana had told one of the 'scammers' she was keeping the prize a secret from her family. The scammers used this by suggesting they would tell her husband about her 'prize' if she did not send further transfer fees required.

Diana's bank became concerned. 'They phoned me once and asked if everything was OK and if I needed any help to contact them, but they did not query anything else,' she said. 'The Post Office did ask me if I was happy about sending these Money Grams – I must admit they did show concern and I appreciate their caring thoughts now, but at the time I was adamant and just said the money was for a friend of mine.'

Diana decided to tell her husband about the Canadian lottery. 'When I told him he became very angry – he's not a well man and I didn't want to see him so upset. We have been married a long time and never had secrets from each other. This nearly broke our marriage up.'

Within six months Diana had paid over �130,000. 'This money I had saved from a legacy inherited from my mother a few years ago, and now it's all gone,' she said.

Just four months ago, the bogus money grabbers tried one more time and phoned Diana. 'I told her I had no more money and had given them all my savings and nearly lost my marriage and trust of my children.' The scammers have not contacted Diana since.

Norfolk County Council trading standards officers and Norfolk Police are now involved.

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