Press releases

Hero award for woman who is the voice of thousands of silent victims of crime

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is hailing a Derbyshire woman as a national 'hero' for her high-profile fight to protect 'chronic victims' against the scammers she blames for her elderly mother's death.

Marilyn Baldwin has launched a website and is collecting a petition to the Prime Minister calling for action to prevent vulnerable people falling victim to postal scams.

Since her mother, Jessica Looke, died, aged 83, in October 2007, after five years of being defrauded to the tune of around £50,000, Marilyn has devoted herself to warning people to beware the scammers who prey on the elderly and those suffering from mental health problems such as dementia.

Now TSI has presenting Marilyn with its prestigious 'Hero' award at the Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Annual Conference and Exhibition, taking place between Tuesday 30 June and Thursday 2 July 2009 at Brighton Centre.

TSI chief executive Ron Gainsford, who presented the award, said: 'Marilyn has done so much to raise the profile of the dangers of scam mail, which cons vulnerable people into parting with money, often because they believe it will lead to them receiving a big prize or inheritance.

'It is vital that people realise that if they are asked to send money to receive a prize, it is a scam - and that they should try to make sure that older or more vulnerable loved ones are not being taken in by this vile form of con trick.'

Marilyn, aged 53, found around 30,000 scam letters in her mother's home after she died and she estimates that Jessica parted with a total of £50,000 during the five years leading up to her death, believing that by sending money to those who were asking for it that she would win a large sum of cash.

Jessica began to suffer panic attacks and palpitations when she could not find the money to respond to all the pre-addressed envelopes with PO Box addresses all over the world - so she stopped paying her domestic bills.

One 'clairvoyant' used fear to extract money from her, saying there was an 'evil force on a higher plain', which Jessica thought was upstairs.

Jessica's death certificate said the cause of death was pneumonia - but Marilyn blames the mental torment the scammers inflicted on her over the years for wrecking her health and 'hounding her to death'.

Marilyn's crusade aims to place posters in every bank and building society, as well as community venues, warning people not to send cash to 'release your prize'. 

She has also set up a helpline number - 0871 200 3796 - for anyone concerned that they or a loved one are falling victim to scams.  The website www.thinkjessica.com provides more information and further details of the 'Think Jessica' campaign are contained in the 'notes to the editor' with this news release.

Marilyn, who lives in Chesterfield, said: 'I'm flattered that TSI is presenting me with its 'Hero' award - and I am very happy to accept it as it will help to raise the profile of my campaign even further.

'There are literally thousands of chronic victims of scam mail, who are silent. They are befriended, tricked and threatened by the criminals and can receive over 100 scam letters a day, are emptying bank accounts and selling homes to keep up with the scammers' demands.

'It is estimated that £3.5 billion is lost to scams each year - the UK is under attack from scammers worldwide. Even the intervention of loved ones will not stop a chronic victim.  Criminal mail is tearing families apart.'

Graeme Preston, TSI's spokesman on scams, said: 'Postal scams are crimes perpetrated in the person's own home and are especially reprehensible in that the scammers befriend the person by letter and telephone, often over a long time.

'The cost to repeated victims can run into tens of thousands of pounds each, but the emotional effect on them and their loved ones can be immeasurable.

'Once the person's plight is known, the most important challenge is to get them to stop paying out money. Trading standards has never been in a better position to offer means of support to victims as a result of playing a key role in community safety.

'Trading Standards also has a vital role in working with partner agencies towards tackling those responsible for these crimes.

'Marilyn's campaign is ground-breaking in raising the awareness of this scourge, which is why we feel that she fully deserves this accolade.'

TSI advises that if anyone is receiving scam mail, or knows of someone who is, they should visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk or call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 for advice.

Notes to Editors:

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office by phone on 08456 089 430 or by e-mail on pressoffice@tsi.org.uk

  • The 'Think Jessica' campaign, run by Marilyn Baldwin, is campaigning for:
  • 'Jessica's syndrome' to be recognised as a condition and counsellors trained to help victims and support families and carers
  • Royal Mail to assist in the early recognition of victims - a simple 'scam alert' form for postal workers to hand to their managers so that other agencies, such as Age UK, could become involved
  • 'Think Jessica' warning posters be displayed in all banks and building societies and in other public places.  This gives the number for the 'Think Jessica' helpline - 0871 200 3796
  • In the long term, a law to stop criminals hiding behind PO box addresses

The Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2009

The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2009, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is a 'must' for consumer journalists!

The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.

The 2009 Conference is being held at the Brighton Centre from Tuesday 30 June to Thursday 02 July. The conference press office will be open from 9am on Monday 29 June (the day before the event starts) until 5pm on Thursday 02 July.
Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.

The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Peter Denard and the main sponsor is the British Toy and Hobby Association.

Some 3,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.