British Woman Addicted to Scam Mail Loses £200,000 | The Fix
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British Woman Addicted to Scam Mail Loses £200,000

For over 56 years, Sylvia Kneller sent money to fraudsters in hopes of a big return. She never saw a dime.

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Sylvia Kneller still receives scam mail. Photo via

By John Lavitt

01/22/14

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For over half a century, Sylvia Kneller was certain her luck would change and the financial promises sent in the mail by what the British press described as ‘fraudsters’ would finally be realized. Caught in a vicious cycle of scam mail, the 76-year old British woman is a tragic example of how addiction is a problem well beyond substance abuse disorders. Then again, the argument could be made that the substance being abused in this case was the post office.

Sylvia Kneller first began responding to the snail mail spam when she was 20 years old. The young working class woman was convinced she would find her way to easy street, as each scam would promise that she had won large sums of money. All she had to do to collect her winnings was send in a processing fee of about $50. Incredibly, she sent in thousands of these fees over the years and never collected a single dime.

Steve Playle, investigations manager for Surrey County Council Trading Standards, described his frustration upon learning of her plight: "This is the worst case we have come across, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were worse out there. There is a very small proportion of the population who do respond to these spam letters and they are a bit forgotten about."

Kneller’s obsessive behavior resulted in the dissolution of her first marriage. Her husband left her because he could not believe his wife would buy into such obvious hokum time and time again. In an interview with The Sun, Sylvia told her side of the story: “I can honestly say I have never had one penny from them. But in your mind, if you are a believer, you believe it and that's it and other people start on at you and you know they are right but you still believe, you still want to do it, it becomes like an addiction really."

Watch the BBB explaining the mail sweepstakes scam:

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