1. ITV Report

56 year addiction to scam mail costs woman £200,000

A 76-year-old woman paid out more than £200,000 after becoming addicted to scam letters for 56 years.

Sylvia Kneller Credit: PA Wire

Sylvia Kneller, from Farnham in Surrey, started responding to fraudsters when she was 20-years-old. She then became convinced that she would one day win a fortune.

A pile of Sylvia's scam letters Credit: PA Wire

Sylvia's first husband left her after she refused to stop responding to the letters. Speaking for the first time about the impact her addiction has had on her life she said:

All the mail that I have been getting I realised was spam mail, spam letters but it does get you all excited and they shouldn't do that to old people, it's not right, not nice at all.

But anyway, I have been doing it since I was 20 and I am now 76 and the amount of money, £200,000, is what I have spent out thinking that I was going to win, to get money back but I never got a penny, I can honestly say I have never had one penny from them.

Sylvia also suffers from arthritis and heart problems Credit: PA Wire

Sylvia added:

In your mind, if you are a believer, you believe it and that's it and other people start on at you and you know they are right but you still believe, you still want to do it, it becomes like an addiction really.

My first husband, we parted company over it because he was fed up with it and anyway he ended up with my best friend.

I thought I shan't send any more money since the lady came out from the council's trading standards and I am grateful for that. I do not send money out now because I can't afford it. If I had kept my money in my purse I would have been rich.

The letters received by Sylia Kneller, who suffers from arthritis and heart problems, included claims that she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees of £20 for her to claim the prize.

Trading standards in Surrey describe the case as one of the worst they have seen Credit: PA Wire

The letters received by Sylia included claims that she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees of £20 for her to claim the prize.

This is the worst case we have come across but I wouldn't be surprised if there were worst out there that we haven't come across yet.

There are a very small proportion of the population who do respond to these spam letters and they are a bit forgotten about.

– Steve Playle, Investigations Manager for Surrey County Council

Trading Standards in Surrey are looking into the cases of 80 people who had repeatedly fallen for the scams.

Sometimes people are quite lonely, it's their only contact with the outside world, they do feel addicted and I know people find it hard to understand.

Sylvia is one of those people and it's quite brave of her to come forward and be highlighted as a victim to warn others.

– Steve Playle, Investigations Manager for Surrey County Council