*Identities have been changed to protect privacy
My parents married young and worked hard so they could take early retirement. They moved overseas and bought a remote farm in sunny climes, which was recommended for Dad’s lung disease. But they only enjoyed their free time for a few years before Dad passed away. I was 44 and miles away from supporting my Mum, who still had many years ahead of her.
The first time I was alerted to something being amiss was when I received an unexpectedly large credit card bill for a cash advance. I paid these bills from a UK account and although I had a few qualms.
I set them aside and just thought Mum must have needed some money quickly. I didn’t really think about it until it happened again.This time I asked Mum what was going on, but she was very cagey and just brushed me off. It wasn’t long before she phoned me and asked me to cover another bill. She had maxed out her credit card and although my sister had paid off the debt, Mum knew she couldn’t afford it and she asked me to pay the money. I did, but this time I took Mum to task.
he asked me not to ask any questions, which immediately made me suspicious. I think she had an inkling that she was being scammed by these ‘friends’ she’d met on the internet, but by now she was in quite deep and was being carried along by flattery and attention. So, Mum just kept paying out larger and larger chunks of money to these scammers.
The next time she needed a bill paid off she came to me directly. I agreed to pay because the interest was mounting up, but our relationship came under a lot of strain. Mum became really defensive. She was lost and lonely overseas without Dad and she liked the attention these people gave her, so I could understand why she didn’t want to believe she was being conned.
But I had to do something, so I started to ask my friends to check out the websites, names and addresses of Mum’s internet contacts. Of course the websites were a sham and the addresses fake. By now, the scammers had managed to swindle £30,000 out of my Mum, which was more than half of her pension.
I decided to let the credit card company block her cards and told Mum I was not going to pay any more bills. I asked a family friend Mum trusted to talk some sense into her, but the stress on me eventually took its toll and I became really ill. I stopped eating and sleeping and lost a lot of weight.
I even tried to report these criminals to the fraud authorities, but they said it had to be my Mum who made the complaint and she was just too humiliated and embarrassed to talk about it to anyone, let alone to strangers. She didn’t understand or want to understand that it was all a scam and her friends were criminals who didn’t care about her.
She started sharing her bank details, so I was constantly checking for large withdrawals. It was only when I told Mum how bad I was and threatened to withhold payment from the credit company that she agreed to stop. I know she still talks to people on the internet, which is fine but she knows she must not give them any money. Mum has kept her word, but the trust between us has been broken.
She knows she’s not streetwise when it comes to money but we had no means to manage and monitor her accounts, especially as she overseas. My Dad knew Mum wasn’t very good with managing money so he always handled their financial affairs and set up trusts to protect her. But Mum was so isolated physically and emotionally after he died that it just wasn’t enough. §