A veteran solider from Aylesbury who was tricked out of £2,000 in a ‘Spanish lottery’ scam is one of hundreds of people across Bucks who falls prey to con-artists every year.
Barry Atkins, 77, looks forward to getting Christmas post from his family and friends, but it comes swamped in junk mail by the dozen, with enticing offers to win millions of pounds, or promises of a fat cheque waiting for him – so long as he sends back some money.
The barrage of junk mail has beseiged Mr Atkins for the past seven years, but it wasn’t until just a few months ago – when life was at a low ebb – that he succumbed to one of the enticing offers.
He had won £1.5 million in a Spanish lottery and a cheque awaited his response, so long as he sent them £2,000 urgently.
So he did.
He waited, but no cheque arrived.
Then he received a letter from the real Spanish lottery, and the awful truth dawned. He’d been scammed.
“I suddenly cottoned on,” he said.
“It was a stomach-turning realisation. There was no lottery win, and I’d just given away £2,000 I could ill-afford.”
Former Army Medical Corps technician Barry’s daily junk mail journey is all the more painful because half the post that arrives is addressed to his late wife, Ingrid. She died in 2006.
“It’s all very distressing for me. I wish it would all stop. I’ve no idea how they got hold of Ingrid’s name but they keep on mailing, even though I’ve sent it back countless times.”
Buckinghamshire County Council Trading Standards officer Chris Holden, who has taken up Mr Atkins’ case, said his was one of more than 250 cases on their investigation list.
Mr Holden has put him in touch with Trading Standards community champion Tina Stewart, who helps him sift through his post every day and removes scam mail for storage in County Hall’s evidence vault.
Mr Atkins, a keen Royal British Legion volunteer and steward at his local parish church, treats Tina as his guardian angel.
He acknowledges he is more susceptible to mail scams as a result of head injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash nearly 20 years ago, which still affect his memory.
“If it wasn’t for Tina I’m sure I’d be much worse off,” he said. “Who knows, by now I could have spent my life savings!”