Friday, 2 August 2013

MY AUNT - a cautionary tale for compers

Early last year my 88 year old aunt had a telephone call. "Congratulations, you have won a holiday worth £1,500"

Now most people reading this will be compers, and would be whooping with joy, but my aunt is blind and can't fill in entry forms or read websites, so she knew very well that she hadn't entered a holiday competition. However the caller was insistent, "you answered a telephone survey 18 months ago. I expect it's slipped your memory"

Well, elderly people DO tend to forget things, and nobody would remember the details of every phone call for 18 months, so my aunt accepted that it was genuine after all. She agreed that the presentation would be at her home, that same afternoon.

When the time for the presentation arrived, a rather scruffily dressed man and woman arrived, carrying a large case, and proceeded to give her a presentation...... about an air purifying system. The man surveyed the house, to work out where the purifiers were to be located, or so he said, and then as it was obvious my aunt wasn't planning to buy, packed up his case and started to leave.

"Just a minute," my aunt said, "What about my prize holiday?"

The man made a big show of searching through his folders and patting down his pockets.

"Oh dear, I must have left the documents in the office, " he said. "I'll pop back with them this evening."

"I'm sorry," my aunt replied, "but I won't be at home, I always go out on Monday evenings"

They agreed he would return on another day, and the man left.

When my aunt got home from her evening out, the house had been broken into and ransacked. Her TV and special electronic equipment for the blind were gone, her collection of ornaments, and all her jewellery.

Of course her visitors from the afternoon had left no contact details, so they were untraceable, but it was obvious that the "survey" had been to find where all the valuables were kept and what the easiest way into the house would be. And her mention of going out that evening had been like offering them an invitation on a silver salver! Naturally, nobody came back during the week with a holiday voucher.

Not content with that, the rogues waited a few months until she would have had time to replace all her valuables, and then came along on another Monday night and stole everything again.

And a few months later they tried a third time. But this time my aunt had decided not to go out that evening because of snow, so was at home when she heard sounds of the window being forced, and called the police. The robbers were frightened away, but now my aunt is too frightened to go for her much loved Monday evenings out in case they come  back and empty the house yet again.

The moral of this story is to make sure that whenever you are told you have won a prize, only believe it if you are ABSOLUTELY certain that you entered the competition, but more importantly, to make sure elderly friends and relatives know this too, and that they never invite strangers into their homes without checking their identity and ideally having a younger adult around.


It's something to bear in mind if you win  a holiday – even a genuine one - because once when I won one, the local paper was sent a press release about it and phoned to interview me. The reporter asked , "When are you taking the holiday?" and was surprised when I refused to tell him. But if I had done, the dates would have been published, and my name and street too. How easy it would have been for every burglar in the neighbourhood to make a date in their diaries to pay me a visit that week!

Some more tips, that apply if EVER anyone suggests presenting a prize to you in your own home. After all, even if it is a genuine prize, you don't know how trustworthy the person bringing it might be.

1. Do your best to arrange for it to be somewhere else, either in their office or in a public place. And make sure somebody knows where you are going, or comes along with you.
2. Ask for time to think about it, and get a name and phone number so that YOU can call THEM back. Don't agree to wait for a call from them. That way, should anything bad happen, you will have their contact details for the police.
3. If a presentation in your home is unavoidable, make sure you are not alone when they come. Agree a time for their visit and have a friend, neighbour or family member present. If they can bring along a large dog, so much the better!
4. If any product other than the prize is mentioned or any sales pitch launched, tell them to leave immediately.  That big dog could be a real help here!


  1. That's shocking, Jane. Its so much worse when a vulnerable older person has been targeted. I hope your aunt hasn't been too traumatised by these experiences.

  2. I agree, truly shocking!

    Good advice though, so easily forgotten with the excitement of winning.

    Hope you're fully recovered, and getting back into things slowly.
    Take care.

  3. >:( incidents like this make me so cross! as frances fox said its easy to get caught up with the excitement of winning, but almost every day we see cases like this involving vulnerable people being reported, and the fact these vile creatures had another two goes at robbing your aunt makes it even more sickening :( thankyou for sharing this with us jane, the more vigilant we all are the better. hope you are feeling a bit better too <3

  4. Oh my, what scum there are out there. Targeting an elderly blind woman, you can't get much lower than that can you. Can victim support do anything for her do you think? Sadly it's quite often the old and vulnerable who suffer at the hands of these people. What a shame the police can't organise a sting operation to catch them. We've just had our second call of the week from people who tell us they've detected a virus on our PC (we use Macs) and that they can clear it up in a trice for a small fee. We don't fall for it of course, but I know of two elderly friends who have. Hope your Aunt can forget about all of this and get on with her life. Let's be careful out there chums x PS Jane, why are you working, naughty girl !

    1. My aunt actually volunteered for Victim Support for many years, until she was well into her 70s, so she knew what help was available to her and made sure she got it. She's still mentally a very strong, resilient lady and knows how to fight for her rights, but even so at her age, her mind just can't be what it was, and these scum exploited that fact. If the same had happened to my Mum, who has lost all that strength of character since her illness last year, it would have destroyed her completely.

  5. Thats terrible :-( Glad she joined Victim Support! I had a friend years ago who answered the phone to a survey regarding TV programs. Once she blethered out what soaps she watched, and what she had to record as she was at Bingo etc, they ended the call. As you can imagine a few days later she was burgled :-( I never give my details away, and don't even announce on Facebook that we're going on holiday - you never know who's reading :-(

  6. kind of the same thing happened to my elderly aunt who suffered with dementia - well, she was told she won £100,00 from a telephone survey she completed and to call back on this premium rate number. Of course the money didn't materialise - just a big phone bill and it was so difficult trying to explain to her it was a con. She was so trusting.

    I'm always so shocked when people post so openly on Facebook that they're off on their holidays! never know who's reading your posts!

    Jen xx

  7. I have had dodgy phone calls in the past stating I have won a holiday and inviting me to a timeshare presentation. I have been advised to steer well clear, but nothing as cold and callous as this. Shocking


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