Scamwatch: can you trust your postman?

Crooked postmen make £1,000 a week stealing bank cards.

Scamwatch: postal fraud ring

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, we turn the spotlight on the shocking postal fraud ring outed earlier this month by a BBC investigation.

How does it work?

A criminal gang working in the West Midlands and London is recruiting postmen to steal people's new bank cards and PIN numbers, the BBC claims.

One of its journalists posed as a postman keen to make some extra cash by working for the gang.

The secret footage he filmed when he met a gang member to discuss joining up shows a man bragging about the gang fraudulently signing up for bank accounts in the names of people on the postmen's delivery rounds, before paying them to intercept letters containing cards and PIN numbers.

The gang member also claimed that postmen can make up to £1,000 for their part in the fraud.

"If you open up a new account you're going to get your card and you're going to get your PIN, right?" he said.

"That's two letters. You intercept the letters, bring them back to us – and you get paid."

How can I avoid being caught out?

The latest figures show that 1,759 Royal Mail employees were sacked and prosecuted for stealing mail between 2007 and 2011.

But the company denies that postal fraud is a big problem for its workforce.

"We deliver millions of items safely every day and the theft of mail is rare," Royal Mail said. "The business operates a zero tolerance approach to any dishonesty."

Its advice to consumers concerned about postal fraud is to be "vigilant", for example by reacting to suspicious behaviour or quickly contacting your bank or credit card provider should an expected letter, PIN or card fail to arrive.

If your post is delivered to a communal area, Royal Mail also recommends investing in a lockable, private post-box.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you think letters have been stolen, contact the relevant organisations and change any account details that may have been compromised straight away.

Then report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, and to Royal Mail.

"Royal Mail encourages people to report any cases where they believe letters may have been intercepted to Royal Mail and the police, so it can be urgently investigated," the company added.