A WOMAN who claims that scam mail conmen contributed to her mother's death has launched a campaign warning of the dangers.

Marilyn Baldwin created the Think Jessica campaign after watching her mother Jessica Looke spend the last five years of her life being "brainwashed" by fraudsters.

Ms Looke, who died aged 83 in 2007, was conned out of £50,000 and targeted more than 30,000 times after her name was put on a "suckers" list. Her daughter now wants others to be aware of such schemes. Police in Scotland have backed the campaign and pledged to crack down on con artists who target the most vulnerable in society.

Ms Baldwin, 56, said: "It was as if she was in some cult. She was totally convinced that the paper chase the criminals were laying would eventually lead to a pot of gold. My mother believed that money she was continually sending was an investment that would make her secure in her final years.

"She was controlled by these criminals to such an extent that she would willingly live on tea and toast to be sure she had money to pay the demands on the next promised big win.

"I have no doubt that the scammers contributed to her death. We think she could have parted with around £50,000 in total – but the truth is we simply don't know as she kept so much to herself.

"It would be more accurate to say she gave them everything including her mental and physical health and the last five years of her life."

Thousands of Scots – particularly the most vulnerable – are being targeted in mail frauds each day, with many paying large sums of money in the hope of winning fictitious prizes.

In some cases, victims receive up to 70 letters a day and can be forced to sell their homes to keep up with the demands. Five people are also known to have committed suicide as they faced increased pressure to pay.

The Scottish Business Crime Centre and the Scottish Financial Crime Group have backed the Think Jessica campaign in a bid to end the scams.

Tayside Assistant Chief Constable Angela Wilson, chairwoman of the Scottish Financial Crime Group, said: "The fraudsters who are perpetuating these scams against the vulnerable and the elderly have no thought for the trauma and upset they are causing. Their behaviour towards the most vulnerable in our society sickens and angers me. But everyone in Scotland can help protect potential victims. If you have a neighbour or an elderly relative, please tell them to be extra observant especially over the festive period.

"Take notice if they are suddenly receiving large volumes of letters or mail. If you are in any doubt, do not hesitate to contact your local police.

"We are also appealing to the banks for their support in this and many have been particularly helpful in reviewing their own internal processes."

Mandy Haeburn-Little, executive director of Scottish Business Crime Centre, added: "We are pleased to be working together in support of the Think Jessica campaign which we see as part of a much wider campaign of public awareness against mail and caller scams. We will be continuing with this awareness-raising throughout the year ahead."

Scam mail differs from junk mail as it is addressed to the victim and often targets older people with declining mental health, as well as those that are socially isolated or depressed.

Detectives believe that one criminal gang makes an estimated £35 million a year from mail frauds, while there is also a report of one scam raking in £500,000 from 22 victims.

The Think Jessica website at www.thinkjessica.com provides further advice.