Elderly Fenland couple tell how timeshare touts conned them out of �23,000
AN elderly couple told how timeshare touts had conned them out of �23,000, as consumer watchdogs launched a new campaign to beat the scammers. Retired bank manager Arthur Wilkinson, 78, and his 70-year-old wife Rosemary spent many happy holidays in the pa
AN elderly couple told how timeshare touts had conned them out of �23,000, as consumer watchdogs launched a new campaign to beat the scammers.
Retired bank manager Arthur Wilkinson, 78, and his 70-year-old wife Rosemary spent many happy holidays in the pair of apartments they had bought shares in on the Costa del Sol.
Their problems began two years ago, after Mr Wilkinson suffered a stroke and they decided to sell their share in the properties.
Companies from Spain and Gibraltar contacted them at their home in Terrington St Clement, offering to handle the sale.
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The Wilkinsons agreed to pay up-front fees of �1,000 to some of the callers, who promised the timeshares would fetch up to �10,000.
"They were on the telephone all the time, we had people ringing up saying we understand you've got a timeshare on the market," said Mr Wilkinson. "They said: 'we've got a company interested in buying where you've got your timeshare in Spain.
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"We can guarantee you'll get the money, you don't have to release the deeds until the money's in your bank."
The Wilkinsons realised they had been targeted by criminal gangs when thousands more were debited from their account without any buyer materialising.
"We had some wonderful holidays there," said Mrs Wilkinson. "But my husband's paid out more money to sell them than they're worth, that's the scam."
Trading standards officers and the Wilkinsons' bank managed to recover most of the money under consumer credit legislation. Spanish police are now investigating the touts. But many caught in similar cons never see their money again. Scammers often use letters or e-mails to trick their victims.
Now trading standards officers have teamed up with Co-op stores, police and councils to launch an awareness-raising "scamnesty" campaign.
Consumer watchdogs have dubbed February Scam Awareness Month. From today, special bins will be available in Co-op stores across the region, along with Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council offices and police stations.
People can deposit suspicious letters, or print off e-mails they suspect are bogus and pass them on to investigators from Trading Standards and the Office of Fair Trading.
Harry Humphrey, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for community protection, said: "Many scams are designed to con the most vulnerable people in society, especially the elderly.
"We know that some people who are conned out of their savings choose not to tell anyone, as many people who fall foul of scams understandably feel embarrassed that this has happened to them. The Scamnesty gives people a more anonymous way of reporting scams."
Letters and e-mails placed in the bins will be investigated. Norfolk police crime prevention officer PC Gail Kevern said: "The Scamnesty is an excellent way of tackling the problem of junk or scam mail and we fully support the campaign.
"Scam letters look convincing but they are made up of false promises. They request bank details and other information which can then be used by fraudsters."
Mr and Mrs Wilkinson are still receiving calls offering to sell their timeshares.
Speaking from bitter experience, Mr Wilkinson said: "No way should you pay any money up-front for anything at all, no matter what it's for.