In every street in the South East someone could be being conned out of thousands of pounds - because of scam mail.
Sussex Police have become the first force in the country to try to find out exactly how bad the problem is.
They say elderly and vulnerable people are sometimes parting with their life savings to criminals sending them letters - posing as charities, competition organisers and suppliers. The cheques they send are funding criminal gangs abroad.
Andy Dickenson reports and speaks to victim's son Chris Becket, Insp Nick Bowman and PC Bernadette Lawrie from Sussex Police.
This story also features a police interview with the late Tom Beckett.
She parted with £175,000 pounds of life savings with the promise of a safe investment. But tonight a pensioner from Winchester says she's ashamed to show her face after becoming one of hundreds of victims of an international phone scam.
The con artists tricked people into buying £15 million worth of fake shares - providing themselves with a luxury lifestyle of fast cars, designer watches and multi-million pound properties.
More than 100 suspected fraudsters are now being held by police who believe at least 850 victims were targeted. But as Sarah Cooper reports, police think that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Hampshire Constabulary have charged five men and one woman in connection with an alleged dating website scam.
- Emmanuel Oko, aged 29
- Brooke Boston, aged 28
- Monty Emu, aged 28
- Eberechi Ekpo, aged 26
- Chukwuka Ugwu, aged 28
- Adewunmi Nusi, aged 26
All are from Southsea, expect from Adewunmi Nusi who is from Hermitage in Berkshire.
They have all been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and are due before magistrate at Basingstoke Magistrates Court today.
Detective Constable Darrin Carey said, "These charges come following a lengthy investigation into an alleged scam where women were asked to hand over significant amounts of cash after meeting men on the match.com website.
"Alleged victims in this case are from the Basingstoke area, across Hampshire."
Police are investigating reports of a fake police telephone scam, aimed at the elderly, after victims lose thousands in cash or valuables.
All those involved received a telephone call from a man claiming to be from Hammersmith Police.
One 83-year-old woman was then told that there had been fraudulent activity on her bank account and someone had been arrested.
She was told that her bank was under police surveillance and she should withdraw money. A courier would then pick it.
She did this, only to be called back and told it was a scam.
Other victims, who have lost valuable items instead of cash, have received similar phone calls.
Anyone who receives a call like this should contact PS Harry Wilson at Eastleigh police station on 101.
Police are warning people in Eastleigh to be on their guard as a fake police scam, aimed at the elderly, has been reported to them.
Victims have all received a phone call from a man claiming to be from Hammersmith Police.
The man sounds very plausible but police are warning to not give out bank details or to pass any valuable items to couriers following calls like this.
They have given this advice on any telephone scams:
- Never accept offers over the phone "if they sound too good to be true, they usually are."
- Never give personal details over the phone
- Report any suspicious phone calls to your phone company
- Consider registering your phone number with Telephone Preference Service (TPS Online) or 0845 070 0707
- Most telephone providers will block anonymous callers
- Never give your credit or bank card PIN over the phone. This information is never requested legitimately by your bank or the police
- If you think something is wrong, hang up the phone
A pensioner has told ITV Meridian how she spent more than two hundred thousands pounds on postal scams - one of the worst cases Trading Standards has ever seen.
Seventy-six year-old Sylvia Kneller, from Farnham in Surrey was bombarded by letters promising prizes. She responded because they were written directly to her - and she thought they were genuine. But the only intention was to rip her off. Andrew Pate reports.
Police in Southampton, Eastleigh and the New Forest area are warning people about a bank card cam after a number of incidents.
The scammers tried at least 5 times on Monday to carry out their con and on one occasion they were successful.
In each case a person received a call from someone pretending to be from the police saying they had been victims of fraud.
They then tried to get personal information out of them including bank details.
In one case a woman from Shirley did as instructed and a man came to pick up the cards which were later used to withdraw £100 before the woman cancelled her cards.
Police are advising people to hang up if someone asks for their bank details or pin numbers.
Hampshire Police are investigating a number of incidents where shoppers have been distracted in supermarket car parks so bank cards and personal items can be stolen from their cars.
The offender and an accomplice use different methods to distract the victim, including asking for directions, telling the victim they have a nail in their tyre and asking if people have dropped money.
The stolen cards are then used to withdraw money or buy items, often before the victim realises.
Crime prevention advisor Graeme Barbour said, "These people are knowingly preying on people's goodwill and helpful nature and are intentionally targeting lone shoppers at supermarkets, causing a distraction which allows another member of the group to commit the theft."
Tips to keep your items safe:
- Never leave your bag on the trolley unattended and always ensure your bag is zipped up
- When putting your shopping in the boot of your vehicle, always ensure your bag/wallet is with you
- If asked for directions or to look at maps/items etc, ensure you lock personal items in the vehicle first
- When filling up with fuel, lock your vehicle when re-fuelling and when you go to pay
- If you are approached by anyone suspicious, report it to the Police as soon as possible.