Scamwatch: prize draw mail fraud

Jess Bown
Man opening a letter in kitchen
Man opening a letter in kitchen

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, prize draw mail fraud, which catches out some 300,000 Britons every year.

Banks Harvest Callers' Voiceprints To Fight Fraud
Banks Harvest Callers' Voiceprints To Fight Fraud

How does it work?
Prize draw mail fraud involves the sending out of letters telling the recipient that he or she has won a prize in a draw - but must send off a small payment to claim it, for example to cover postage costs.

Fraud of this kind, which costs its victims an estimated £60 million a year, is currently the subject of a joint crackdown by National Trading Standards and Royal Mail that has already resulted in 6,000 people getting their cash back.

It is often aimed at vulnerable individuals such as the elderly, who are less likely to suspect that a letter claiming they have won a draw they never entered is a scam.

Louise Baxter at National Trading Standards said: "It is often very difficult to persuade vulnerable, often elderly, individuals that letters telling them they have won large sums of money are scams."

How can I avoid being caught out?
You have to be in it to win it, so be very wary of letters - or emails or phone calls - claiming that you have won a draw you are not aware you entered in the first place.

Other surefire signs that you are being targeted by fraudsters include requests for a payment of any kind and messages with lots of inaccurate spelling or grammatical mistakes.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
If you are caught out by a prize draw mail scam, it is important to work with organisations that can help to stop the fraudsters behind the crime and try to recoup your money.

These include Royal Mail (03456 113 413,, Citizens Advice (03454 04 05 06) and Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).

Watch out too for so-called fraud recovery fraud, which involves fraudsters contacting those who have already lost money and claiming to be law enforcement officers or lawyers who can recoup their losses - for a fee.

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