29/10/2012 Inside Out South


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Hello, from Romsey and welcome to Inside Out. This is coming up


tonight: Just making sure, I can see anything. We are under cover at


a mail handling company with a nasty habit of pinning its


customers' letters. It is quite sad, really. And we have surprises for


some of the people who wrote them. Where did you get this? Oh, I do


recognise this, actually. All the managing staff, thank you so much


for the lovely news are received with my order informing me and my


family that I had finally received this wonderful cheque. So how do we


get the customers' voice is heard? I am hoping you mean to pay me.


And what can the law do to stop a Hampshire company whooping off


pensioners across the country. says in the letter quite


categorically that if you have the allocation number which they have


sent you, then you have irrefutably won that prize. Not that you may


win it, you have actually won it and that they have pulled it out


and they are waiting for you to send in your order so that they can


send their cheque within 48 hours. You don't want to spend your father


from spending his own money and it is exhausting because I did not


want him to be ripped off. I am Jon Cuthill and Mrs Inside Out of the


south of England. -- this is Inside This is Mrs Joan Watkins. She lives


in a council flat on a pension. And for the past six months she's spent


hundreds of pounds chasing a prize that doesn't exist. "you have


indeed one at the unique prize, a cheque for over �130,000". For


years, we have been trying to get off the mortgage but we do not get


that far and I thought that would help and the boys can get a new car.


It would help them so that is why I did it to.


She bought health and beauty products from a mail order company


which made her believe if she placed orders with them, she'd win


over �130,000.. I am carefully because I only have my pension and


they have got a name and address, and they are sending the stuff so


how can it be a scam? She wrote to the address in


Hampshire asking when her cheque would arrive. She never got a reply.


What she did get was more post requesting more orders and


promising prizes. Look at the state of the city. Down in this corner.


- the state of the sofa. Meet Hilda and Keith Birtwistle who


live on their pensions in a council bungalow. In the past five years,


Hilda has spent over �16,000, also chasing a prize she would never get.


She has emptied her bank account twice. He has cut my car up. --


card up. I do not trust her with a chequebook. I have to hide them.


Hilda too bought a whole range of soaps and potions because she was


convinced she was the sole winner of the �130,000 prize. The house is


now full of products they don't need. Look at that, seven bottles


of the same stuff over there. We have got four, when she is using,


five, four more there. Hilda is often up at 3 o'clock in


the morning filling in forms and she has been sending orders several


times a week. But being caught in this scam has not just emptied


their bank accounts, it's having a dramatic effect on their


relationship. Arguing, forever falling out. And each of us


threatening to go. It is really tearing at people and I can


understand these elderly people, it has really broke as a part.


brokers apart. In one of her recent letters to the


company, Hilda apologised that she was not able to place an order as


she had spent all her savings but she said she still hadn't received


any prize money. The only answer she got was once again more post


requesting more orders and promising prizes. But Lady there?


Does she look happy? That is the lady who got our cheque.


We've uncovered evidence showing while cheques are cashed and orders


processed, letters like those written by Mrs Watkins and Mrs


Birtwhistle, chasing up promised winnings, are routinely thrown away


unread. How much longer do we have when you pay this money out?


keeps stating that if I send an order, the cheque will be sent to


me. I am sorry my order is not larger. Nothing happens.


The letters telling pensioners they are guaranteed winners come from a


group of Belgian and French-owned companies. This year Belgian courts


told one of those companies, Vital Beauty, that it would be fined for


every false prize-winning promise it sent out and faced with that


threat, Vital Beauty shut down its UK operation. Almost immediately


though, Vital Nature, owned by the same group, sprung up with exactly


the same marketing techniques. we see across many crime types in


the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau when we are analysing the


crimes coming through our door is that people that offer a service


from the UK, companies that allege themselves as being based in the UK


through the use of a particular male sending service or an


accommodation address for example or a letter that has a UK phone


number on it, always offers that air of "we can trust this company,


perhaps it is not a danger to invest in or do business with". So


it offers that legitimacy to the UK customer and it is not until you


look further into that that you actually find out on a lot of


occasions, they hide behind that as an air of legitimacy and the fact,


they are based overseas and they are certainly not as legitimate as


you think they are on first read. And that's where Emery Ltd of


Romsey comes in. Emery laid off people when Vital Beauty closed but


started employing them again when Vital Nature went into business.


They are clearly not reading their letters, time to give them a voice.


Dear friends, I enclose my ordered cheque and forms. Hope you can get


my order because I am now 90 but I am in a wheelchair, cannot walk and


had two heart attacks. I am a diabetic, I have got angina and am


very lonely. Our loudhailer is going down a


storm. Neighbouring businesses are happy to listen to letters from


confused customers, which is more than can be said for Emery here in


Romsey. It will help me walk again, the


payment for this. One employee whose job it was to


bin these letters was so appalled at the part a UK business plays in


this deception that she went undercover with a camera to show


what happens. Just making sure they can't see anything. Emery Ltd is


the British hub for a whole range of companies ultimately owned by a


man called Stephane Alech. Vital Nature. All make people believe


they've won big bucks. All you have to do is place an order and


thousands do just that. The letters that people write in, it is quite


In Yorkshire, disabled John Chappell cares for his 88-year-old


blind mother. They've been inundated with prize promise


letters. It says in the letter quite categorically that if you


have the allocation number which they have sent you, then you have


irrefutably won that prize. I think the first one was for 148,000. Then


the second one was for 135,000 and then the other was for 44,000 and


so on and so forth. Not that you may win it, "you have actually won


it" and may have pulled it out and they are waiting for you to send in


your order so that they can send their cheque within 48 hours.


They've ended up with drawers full of products they don't need many


from Vital Nature. That is extra strength. Pills and potions aimed


at the frail and elderly are stacked in boxes in every room.


These are Lucas and mean and that is for your fitness and bones.


post back order after order as soon as the prize letters arrive,


desperate to follow the rules and receive the promised cheques.


are talking about four per day. I was told that our Barclaycard was


stopped with �7,000 on it. John is a retired West Yorkshire policeman


but he still sent off dangerous personal details to confirm his win.


They insisted on identification so that is a copy of the passport sent


to them. Also they require a photograph of you to be used on


their publication when you have won it. It is a bit like if you are a


drug addict. They feed you with so much, that you have won it. That


there is only one more step so you do it and then you do it again. And


then at one point, somebody says, let's knock it on the head and she


says no, because we will lose it. They also require another one to


make sure it is the same person. It has cost us money but also it has


cost us in ink from the printer which is about �80 per week. It has


also cost us in stamps, about �17 per week. It is all over and above.


But I would do anything for her. When you came, it hurt to know that


I had been victim of a scam but I was relieved that I would not shell


out any more money on a hiding to nothing. When you go so far, and


having paid, you think "I will lose that money now". You might as well


go to end. But you still think that you will get it. At the end but


obviously they are frozen. In London the cupboards are all but


bare. Jimmy has borrowed from two loan sharks to try to claim the


cheques he was told were definitely He's bought boxes and boxes of


goods because that's what he thought he had to do to get his


promised prize, he's now paying back �130 a week on debts - leaving


him just 30 quid a week to live on. Pack a kept saying, I know it is


true, everything will be all right. But even my daughters told him,


you're wasting your money on it, but Jimmy just wouldn't have it.


Jimmy thought they were right and we were wrong. You might recognise


that. I do recognise that. To all the managers and staff, to thank


you for or all the things they received as my order. This is the


most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me and my family. This


will be life-changing for has in this time of depression and the


cost of living. I cannot thank you enough and it is all down to your


beautiful company Vital Nature. I was just one of the silly people


that kept doing it. I was told, Mary told me to stop. That was it.


But I still carried on, I thought someone had to be right. Like


hundreds of others Jimmy and Mary struggled to cope with daily post


suggesting that all they had to do was place one more order to get


their prize. With that the letters they continually cent, in centre of


sending one a month, it was every other day and I was getting fed up


with the letters and I told him, please, and Jimmy, it stopped. They


are using you. They are using us for their convenience and we are


not going to get anything. I was right, but he would not have it. If


they did not took those things, he wouldn't be in debt light years,


but thank God I'm around to help him my to this trouble. -- and in


debt at like he is. Near Bridgend in Wales another family called in


Trading standards. My dad spent �20 per item, believing he would get a


cheque. They discovered their father had bought rooms full of


products many of them with foreign labels he couldn't even understand,


and all because he was told he was a guaranteed winner. Initially I


thought my dad had dementia, because none of it made sense. But


then I realised he was convinced he had won this money. I cannot


understand how it is not illegal. Anybody could telly the marketing


of its illegal under products looked like a load of rubbish. He


bought the products believe it he had won a competition. The letters


were convincing. I've read the letters and I had to beat them


quite a few times. If I hadn't read online that it was a scam, it was


very difficult to work out that he had not won. It has been absolutely


exhausting. I pick it up a year ago and every retried, but you do not


want to stop your father from spending his own money. I did not


want him to be scam that. They should be prosecuted. I cannot


explain how I feel. This is the first time I have cried, because


I'm getting so angry. I do not want my father to feel hurt. I'm not


angry towards my father, because he has a lovely, kind man. It would


make my life a lot easier if we could just push a button and make


it stop. But because this is an international scam, it requires


other bodies since Trading Standards. We will 81 a local a


form some research into links into that business, but ultimately,


action needs to be taken at a higher level. We will do what we


can. All these letters came from the whistleblower who worked at


Emery in Hampshire. She became suspicious when reading letters


from so many people who thought they were winners. Thank you so


much for your letter today. I am 87 years old, live alone because I


lost my dear wife seven years ago. I do not want to lose this money.


Just a note to tell you I got a letter today, because I truly think


this was my cheque, but no. You see a fine return your documents and if


he even more money then this handsome prize will be sent to me


in a few days. When I first started working there and opening these


letters, they had me convinced and I could not understand why all


these two were had one. The more I opened, I thought, it cannot be


that everyone has a winner. Her job was to take out cheques, process


further orders and bin the rest - including photographs that had been


asked for to publicise non-existent wins. Instead of binning them, she


managed to sneak some out to prove the extent of the deceit. People


confused, generally asking about their prize, why had they not got


it yet. Asking about it and will these, I had to throw away. I am


delighted to win, many thanks to everyone at Vital Nature. I have


had financial problems for many years. How do you feel when you


read these letters? It is heartbreaking. Sometimes I get to


pop down in it and have to put them all to one side. I cannot


concentrate on what I'm doing, they are all real life stories. This is


Jessica Looke - a victim of the trickery facilitated by Emery in


Romsey. She's since passed away, but her daughter Marilyn runs a


campaign to put an end to mail order scams. Together we looked at


just a handful of letters Marilyn has spoken to thousands of victims


who, like her mother, truly believed they'd been singled out to


win a cash prize. I hope you can read my letter. I do not see any


one, because I am at the end of the lane. I look forward to getting a


cheque from you, I will buy a little top and pay for some


treatment to help a walk. I just keep my fingers crossed. Years


since Selly. Isn't that awful? That is awful, isn't it? How can they do


it? Marilyn has spoken to thousands of people who thought they were


singled out to receive a cash prize. In their minds, there is still a


chance that it will come. You have to keep going along with it, and


the carrots they use, like the phone calls and the more letters,


they are more exciting, suddenly you're special and important. Up


they do not understand mass- marketing fraud. Joan Watkins was


one of those who wrote chasing her prize money. This time to mail


order company Phyderma via, you guessed it, Emery in Hampshire.


Every time I got one, I replied and I got an order under put a sticker


on the order form. You have to put it on the order form. I have done


exactly what they said. And I have nothing back for myself. My son


said to me, mum, you have spent too much. It is not worth it. He has


said all along he thought it was a scam. But higher didn't believe it.


Now for a surprise, we've got the letter she wrote. Where did you get


this? I was definitely not ordering any more. That has finished me,


seeing you have got hold of the letter. That should have gone to


Phyderma. That has made me angry, that really has. There is no point


in me pitting the anger on paper, because they will not get it. I


sent it to them and that is what they do with it. It is not on.


to go after the bad guys - because remember While their customers may


be left all at sea, the Gebbetts You might know David if you're a


member of the this Sailing Club here. He lives within spitting


distance of this medina. That is when he is not swanning around New


Zealand for six months of the year. His son Nick Nick name lives in


Norfolk. His latest Tweet is something about taking up a cat to


that bet. Nothing about running a company involved in a mass


marketing scam. While their customers may be left all at sea,


the Gebbetts appear to be riding high on a wave of success. Here's


Dad David who often pops in for a chat at the company. And here's his


son Nick who appears to be in charge. He keeps a much lower


profile - not the best photo. many occasions, you find that could


be the scenario, that company in the middle which provides a


legitimate British service, have the guilty knowledge behind it that


they're actually operating at the front end or the middle of a fraud.


It has been going on for many years. When I left, probably about seven


years ago, and it has been going on since then. Everybody who works


there knows what's going on. The amount of times Trading Standards


have come round because other people have complained, they must


know. I would urge, if there is any proof available, to make that


available to the national fraud intelligence bugle and put that


together with the rest of the pieces of an horrific crime that


has taken people's life savings, and that can be the key that opens


our goal were to be able to effectively Detect and take law-


enforcement action against the people who have committed these


truly horrible crimes. While they throw away most letters they


receive, Nick Gebett did read the one we sent him. He replied they'd


only answer our questions with a statement if we used it in full and


unedited. Obviously we want to hear their side of the story, but we


can't go giving promises like that to anyone. But I still needed to


know why they thought it was ok to do the dirty work for a French


scammer. And what were the chances of that? I managed to bump into


David Gebbett at his waterside home. Mr Eyre in aid? Can I ask why


you're company continues to cash of the checks of vulnerable people?


cannot answer questions. You are staff have been instructed to shred


their letters. That is not very good customer service. I cannot


comment on that. I am sorry. What do you say to these people, who


have been taken for a right by these people when your company


could stop it happening? If we didn't, some other company would to


it. That does not make it right. Do you have nothing to say to these


people? Surely you owe them something, Mr Gebbett? If they


didn't do it, someone else would. Does that make it right? I have


been so poorly lately and I have not been able to get out. I am


writing to accept my prize. National Fraud intelligence bureau


has asked to see our evidence. They say they're keen to take action


against any companies that operate to deceive members of the public.


We are closing in on you, if you're in the UK or operating outside the


country. We will do what we can for our community to stop them being


victims of your creed and your criminality. I asked my number was


the winning number, I am hoping you mean to pay me. At this moment in


time, I am living on just that, hold. I think our work here is done.


I think we have truly given them a voice. Don't forget, the advice


from action fraud is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


I promise we do read every single e-mail. Week 2 not throw them away.


See you next week. Next Monday, we are on the trail of the South's


rarest plants. Am I facing the right direction? Is there any way


today I would be allowed in to see them? The would have to knock you


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