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Jessica Looke used to get thirty letters a day asking for money. You’d assume she was a wealthy widow wanting to do good works with her money. Widow she was, but wealthy, no. At least not after the scammers had finished with her.

The letters claimed she had won huge money prizes and that all she had to do to claim the prize was send back a small charge for ‘administration’. Before long she was sitting up until 3am dealing with the huge number of letters she received every day. Ironically, it was her determination to win and to donate large sums to the charities that meant a lot to her, that drove her to reply, with money, to the letters. By the time she died she had lost more than £50,000. Her family tried to convince her that they were scams but she believed her loved ones were jealous of her future wealth.

Debbie R’s father had been enjoying a happy retirement when the letters started arriving at aged 85, soon to be followed by scam telephone calls. Once he responded to the first few, the number of letters arriving sky-rocketed until he was receiving a hundred a day. At first the paperwork just covered the kitchen table, but within months every available surface was covered with bundles that awaited attention. Debbie’s father was convinced that he was involved in a legitimate business venture. The ‘confidential’ nature of the letters and the grooming that took place on the phone, led him to send thousands, in the absolute certainty of a huge return on his money. The scammers had become his friends. The effort of replying to all the letters obsessed him from early morning until late at night and he shunned his friends and family, until he literally ran out of money and his health nose-dived.

Audrey also fell victim to scams. She was determined to have some money to pass on to her children and grandchildren, and became convinced that so-called prize draws were the way to get it. In the early stages of dementia, she created a delusional world around the letters, believing that she was working for the scammers, and that she had a boss who would visit her. The confidential nature of the scam letters convinced her that there were men watching the house and she became extremely scared.

There are many more of these stories. In 2015 the National Trading Standards Scams team identified 3,339 scam victims from repeat victim lists, and believe that in total 220,000 names have been shared on victims lists. The average age of victims is 75.

Jessica’s daughter, Marilyn, was moved to set up the Think Jessica campaign in 2007 after five years of struggling to find help for her mother. The aim is to educate others about the powerful psychology criminals use to trap their targets and to make them understand that this is powerful enough to turn them against their loved ones and anyone trying to help them. Marilyn is campaigning to have Jessica’s Scam Syndrome recognised as a mental health condition.

If you’re worried about scams on your own behalf or that of another there are a number of things you can do. The important thing is to break the cycle of letters followed by replies, leading to more letters and more replies.


  • Report any concerns to Action Fraud (police stations will not take information about frauds anymore. Action Fraud is the correct route).
  • Talk about it to someone. Victim Support or Think Jessica will try to help if you are feeling anxious, fearful or guilty
  • Get advice from the above agencies, or perhaps Age UK.

With thanks to Think Jessica for much of the information in this article. They can provide much more help and information at where you can also find links to other agencies.


Cliff Shining