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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 13:48 GMT
Mother runs up 30,000 scam debt
An 80-year-old Derbyshire woman is being forced to sell her house after running up a 30,000 debt by replying to scam mail, according to her son.

Keith Gillson said his mother, who lives in Crich but does not want to be named, had sent money after receiving letters saying she had won cash prizes.

She was getting 30 letters a day at the height of the problem.

Mr Gillson, 53, who now lives in North Yorkshire, has set up a website to help families in similar situations.

'Terribly embarrassed'

He said his mother had been replying to the letters for about 10 years without his knowledge and had run up debts on credit cards and failed to settle household bills so she could send off the money.

Most of the letters suggested a major prize had been won - and could be collected after sending an administration fee.

Mr Gillson said he did not how many of these letters his mother had replied to but it could be as many as 30 a day over several years.

"There was no indication as to how much debt she had got herself into. All she knew was that she was getting letters from the bank and she finally came to me and said: 'Can you help me out.

"I went sorting through the house and found carrier bags full of these sorts of [scam] letters."

Mr Gillson said she was "terribly embarrassed about the whole situation" and did not want to talk to anyone about it.

He added: "It's a very difficult situation.

"Her house is on the market for 160,000 so we want to pay off the debt and buy her a sheltered home closer to us but the housing market is slow at the moment."

'Vulnerable people'

Royal Mail said it had a legal duty to deliver letters as addressed and no authority to act as a police body for mail.

A spokesperson said: "We understand concerns that mailings of this nature could take advantage of elderly and vulnerable people.

"We would always advise customers not to give out personal details unless they are absolutely certain of the source."

Mr Gillson said he hoped his website would bring families together to share information as to where the letters are coming from.

"All the bodies we have spoke to accept that there's a problem but they don't want to do anything about it," he said.

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