Bay of Plenty Times 1/5/13

Photo: Andrew Warner

An advocacy group for the elderly is warning pensioners of a potential scam involving personalised letters. The warning comes after a Tauranga woman was sent a personalised letter from Spain. The letter had authentic-looking markings from an overseas postal service. It claimed the woman, who only wanted to be identified as Betty, had won more than $500,000.

The letter told Betty to fill in a form, which included her name, address, contact details and bank account number, and US$600,000 (NZ$700,000) would be deposited into her account.

"It was a foolscap envelope with a lot of Spanish markings on it. It looked very believable," Betty said.  "But right away I could smell a rat because years ago I got sent a letter from Nigeria saying I had to pay lots of money but this one didn't ask for any money."

The letter, dated April 16, stated she was one of several winners in the Terra Viva Grant Foundation Espana International 2013 grant and award promotional draws.

It said participants did not have to buy tickets to formally enter into the draw and her name was selected randomly using a computer ballot system selection method.

The letter read: "You have been approved for a payout of US$651,000".  "This is from a total cash prize of US$25,500,000. Shared among the 17 international winners. Your fund has been deposited with BANKIA SPAIN and comprehensively insured in your name."

Betty said the letter looked professional and she thought people could believe it was genuine.  "For a lot of elderly people trying to make ends meet on the pension, this would be a god-send," she said.  "But obviously it's a scam - and something that kept going through my head was if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is."

Betty received the letter on Saturday and contacted Age Concern with her worries.

Tauranga Age Concern is advising people to contact them if they receive suspicious mail [contact your local branch].