HUNDREDS of items of post were used to shock Pagham residents about the power of conmen.
The boxful of envelopes and letters showed the amount of correspondence received by a local resident in just one month.
It consisted of invitations to send money for all sorts of get-rich-quick schemes.
There were also ‘offers’ of over-priced goods such as three bars of soap for £25 for which the buyer would get good luck.
The startling exhibit of the scammers’ influence was shown by Pagham police community support officer Bill Prior to members of Pagham and District Residents’ Association.
His visit came as Sussex Police launched a force-wide initiative, Operation Signature, to hammer home the scale of scam mail fraud which is costing pensioners millions of pounds.
PCSO Prior said: “All sorts of people can get caught up in this sort of stuff.
“I know there have been professionals such as head teachers and local government officers.
“Lonely women are also being targeted by men from places like Australia and the USA. They are then asked to send cash. There are phone calls and emails.
“People don’t like to be rude. They listen and listen and that’s when the conmen take advantage.”
He said a list of national con victims had revealed some 250 names in the Pagham and Aldwick area. Of those, about 20 were heavily involved with the scammers.
Ann Rowles, chairman of the residents’ association, said: “People have just got to learn to say no. It doesn’t matter how many leaflets or phone calls they get.”
Sussex Police officers have spent six months talking to more than 900 people who were on the list of victims. They found more than 400 of them had lost a total of £2m-plus.
The force is the first in the country to quantify the scale of frauds. The con starts with a ‘tempter’ letter. A reply sees the person’s name and address sold to criminals who hound the individual.
Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones said: “This is a mean and heartless crime that targets elderly, vulnerable and often lonely people.
“The scams usually involve the victims receiving letters and, sometimes, phone calls from overseas claiming they have either won money and need to send a percentage of the ‘winnings’ to claim the prize or they should send money in with competition entries.”