“Mum’s confidence has been shaken to bits” - daughter of elderly victim of mattress fraudster speaks out
09:37 31 July 2014
copyright: Archant 2014
The daughter of a Norwich pensioner who was tricked by a convicted fraudster has described how her mother’s confidence has been “shaken to bits” by the deceit.
The woman in her late 80s was one of a number of elderly and infirm victims who were duped by Georgina Dean into paying up to £700 for cheap massage mattresses which she claimed had healing powers.
Advice from Trading Standards officers about cold calling:
If someone calls you unexpectedly, on the telephone or at your door, offering a service or any kind of help, never give them any details or agree to let them in unless you are completely satisfied that they are who they say they are.
If in doubt, or you have any concerns, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 (or 0208 1850 710)
Relatives, carers and neighbours of elderly people are asked to be alert on their behalf and get in touch with Citzens Advice too if they have any suspicions.
If anyone feels they are in immediate danger or a caller is threatening or aggressive call 999.
Dean, also known as Elizabeth, told customers they were medically approved and could treat a number of conditions, including Parkinson’s.
Norwich Crown Court heard the mats which she sold from prices ranging from £220 to £700 could be bought for £30 on eBay.
Dean, 39, formerly of Barnham Broom Road, Wymondham, who earlier was convicted of two counts of fraudulent trading, was sentenced to nine months in jail, but Judge Anthony Bate decided to suspend the sentence for two years after hearing she had moved to West Sussex, and was working.
Judge Bate said she had made £4000 from the scam and ordered she should pay £500 a month back in compensation.
After hearing that some of her victims had since died, the judge said any remainder of the cash clawed back should go towards the costs of Norfolk trading standards, which investigated the fraud.
The judge told Dean: “It could be said you richly deserve to go to prison. However there is a better prospect of the losers being compensated if you are able to retain your liberty and work the losses off.”
Judge Bate also ordered Dean to do 300 hours unpaid work.
Matthew McNiff, for Dean, said not all her customers were elderly and said the sales had been “infrequent.”
“There was never any attempt for her to hide her name, her address, her contact details.”
The news that victims should get their cash back was welcomed by the daughter of one of Dean’s victims Carol, whose mother is in her late 80s and lives in Norwich.
“My mum has always prided herself on being able to spot a scam a mile off, and whenever she has been uncertain, she has always discussed it with us.”
She said her mother had been taken in when Dean contacted her and she was led to think she was something to do with the doctor’s surgery.
“Dean came round, demonstrated a massage pad and mum signed a piece of paper agreeing to pay £220 for unit and paid £100 cash deposit.”
She said luckily they cancelled the order, but her mum had lost her deposit.
“Mum lost her deposit, which is pretty tough, but this is about even more than the money. Mum’s confidence has been shaken to bits as a result of her encounter with Dean.”
She said her mother felt stupid that she had been taken in.
“Dean’s crime may technically be fraud but the effects go further than one can imagine. Dean’s actions have changed our mother from being a strong, capable lady into a very vulnerable one, to the extent that she doesn’t want to go out and won’t even pick up the phone when it rings at home.”
“We know that only time, and our support, will heal this, but so many of Dean’s customers, like my mum, don’t have all the time in the world to get over it and we are just so angry that they have to go through this at their ages.”
Dean was prosecuted following a two-year trading standards investigation which was sparked after a spate of complaints about Dean’s business operations. Eight witnesses, mostly elderly, gave evidence at the five day trial.
Dean’s customers would sign a contract that she said could be cancelled in seven days if they were not happy. But the products were delivered to them after this time, leaving her victims unable to cancel and get their money back.
Gary Young, principal trading standards officer at Norfolk County Council, said: “Georgina Dean deliberately set out to target elderly people with known medical conditions. She did this by buying a list of potential customers over the age of 70 from the internet. She then went on to cynically scam them.
“Scammers rely on getting people to trust them. Dean earned her victims’ trust by dressing in a medical uniform when she visited them and claiming to be part of medical organisations.
Mr Young said: “She built up relationships with her “clients” by phoning them at home, appearing to be concerned about their medical problems by asking them further questions, telling them she had something which could help alleviate their condition and arranging a home visit to demonstrate it.
“She also lied to people to make a sale. One of our witnesses gave evidence in court that Dean told them a mattress she was trying to sell them would “stop Parkinson’s disease”.
“If these tactics weren’t bad enough, she would demonstrate a mattress but say that it wasn’t currently available – and that there would be new stock shortly. It would normally be a larger, more expensive model that she showed, compared to the smaller, cheaper version which she eventually provided.”
Shaun Norris, trading standards manager said: “This sentence is the result of a thorough investigation of the crimes Dean committed and the horrible way she manipulated her victims, taking advantage of their health worries and fleecing them out of hundreds of pounds for mattresses and massage pads that could never cure their ailments in the way she told them they would.
“During our investigation our officers uncovered very clear evidence of the scam Dean was running - and the jury agreed with us by unanimously finding her guilty. But it’s a measure of the scant regard she had for her elderly victims that in spite of this proof - and despite the stress she had already caused them - that she continued to deny everything, forcing them to go through the additional ordeal of giving evidence in court.”