A vulnerable woman has revealed her agony after losing $156,000 of her life savings to cruel scammers who are targeting elderly residents in Australia.
Meredith Cooper, 78, admitted she now feels ashamed and “a fool” for falling for the con which, like many similar ones across the country, saw a group of men knock on her door in Sydney following the recent horrific storms and convince her that she needed extensive, and expensive, home repairs doing.
Appearing on Channel 9’s A Current Affair on Thursday night, she explained the men – who were led by a man calling himself ‘John’ – claimed her roof was flooded “like a swimming pool” following the wild weather, needing urgent repairs.
“They lifted a couple of tiles and they said that the roof was totally flooded it was like a swimming pool,” she said on the show.
Trusting the men, Mrs Cooper slowly began making withdrawals from her bank account over the next two weeks – with the final amount totalling $156,000.
“I feel like an absolute idiot. I’m very ashamed, I’m very embarrassed and it’s affected me very, very badly,” she admitted as she became emotional on camera.
It came at the worst possible time for the worried woman, as she recently found out her elderly husband has been diagnosed with terminal cancer – making her his full-time carer. She said that the personal blow has made her feel vulnerable, and meant her mind has been elsewhere recently.
“This ‘John’ was a very good talker and I said with the worry with my husband, I wasn’t thinking very clearly, because usually I’m pretty canny about this kind of thing, but not this time. No way,” she said.
Sadly, Mrs Cooper is just one of several elderly residents who have been targeted by scammers following the Sydney storms.
Detective Superintendent Linda Howell from the Financial Crime Squad revealed on the show that police have been alerted to several post-storm scams like this one. In fact, one of the worst cases saw a 90-year-old Sydney woman losing more than $169,000.
“It’s absolutely despicable behaviour,” Howell added. “Whatever you do, do not engage with them, close the door and call police.”
The Sydney storms before Christmas caused devastation across the city and surrounding suburbs, with heavy rainfall sparking flooding in homes and strong winds causing damage to roads and surrounding areas.