‘Inspirational’ woman joins Wandsworth conference to tackle gangs targetting elderly


Marilyn Baldwin has set up an anti-scamming campaign.


By Molly Kersey

The winner of Lorraine’s Inspirational Woman of the Year 2013 is helping elderly Wandsworth residents protect themselves against crime.

Just days before the triumph was announced, Marilyn Baldwin spoke at the ‘Crimes against the elderly’ conference at Wandsworth Town Hall.

Over 100 people attended the event, including Age UK Wandsworth, MPs and Bexley Community Policing Engagement Group (CPEG). 

Lorraine viewers voted for Marilyn for her Think Jessica anti- scamming campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the huge problem of scam mail in the UK. Every year an estimated £3.5billion is lost to scams, not including the number which go unreported.

The Think Jessica campaign is named after Marilyn’s mother, who was herself a victim of scammers, and it specifically helps protect elderly and vulnerable members of society from being targeted by postal and telephone scams.

Scammers work from mailing lists which address the victim by name and categorise people as elderly, living alone and without internet access so that they will be less likely to find out that what is sent to them is fake.

“We’re talking about thousands of victims, it’s not the odd victim losing 10 or 20 pounds its thousands of victims losing millions of pounds,” said Marilyn.

“At one time people used to think that anybody who fell for scams was stupid and now the professionals are starting to realise that the psychology these criminals use is so powerful.” 

Criminals sending scam mail have been known to pose as clairvoyants, FBI agents and bank managers to blackmail people into handing over huge amounts of money. 

“These fictional characters they create, they create a delusional world that traps the victim,” she said.

Marilyn explained how important it was to reach and educate people who could fall prey to fraud, and how serious the risks could be.

“Every UK citizen is at risk because even if you’re scam wise now you don’t know if when you’re in your 80s or 90s you’re going to have declining mental health, so everybody is a potential victim.”

As well as awareness raising events Think Jessica has also launched a number of national poster campaigns, with hard hitting ‘scam mail is blackmail’ and ‘silence of the scams’ posters being displayed all over the country.

Marilyn said: “We’ve had thousands of posters on billboards, in shopping centres, train stations, supermarkets. All this is to reach out to people so they can write in and get our material.

“We’re tackling both sections of society, the ones with the internet and the ones without.

“We’re always looking for sponsors to fund our material and to distribute it in their communities.” 

Both the ‘Crimes against the elderly’ conference in Wandsworth and the work of Think Jessica received a great deal of praise from those who attended.

Carol Ann Demuth, Treasurer at Bexley CPEG, said: “I was very moved by Marilyn’s presentation on Think Jessica and had no idea that this could become an addiction. I was appalled that the Royal Mail would not stop delivering all this junk mail to elderly people.

“I am only grateful that my mother in law took our advice when we suggested she throw them in the bin – but she could so easily have been a target for the gangs who send out these letters.”

Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, said: “A few months before this excellent conference a neighbour of mine was defrauded which brought the issue home to me, and like many people I also worry about my older relatives.

“Constituency MPs can have a really useful role in highlighting scams – I have put an article in my latest newsletter and I have also written to the big high street banks asking what more they can do to reinforce their ‘golden rules’ about the information they will NEVER ask their customers to hand over.”

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Photo courtesy of Dvortygirl, with thanks.

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