Households urged to forward scam post to National Trading Standards
Households are being urged to forward examples of scam mail received through their letterbox to National Trading Standards free of charge.
The “scamnesty” drive will help trading standards officers gather intelligence about cons such as fake lottery draws and competitions, clairvoyance scams which claim something exciting is about to happen in the recipient’s life, unclaimed inheritance frauds, and catalogues with items which are over-priced or never turn up.
The drive will help to prevent more scam post landing on people’s doormats.
Often, scams promise the recipient big payouts or ask them to pay a fee for more information. They may involve the recipient needing to answer a competition question, to hook them in.
Organised criminals may try to con people by personalising mail using the recipient’s name throughout as well as on images such as certificates and cheques.
Seals, crests, fonts, signatures and “identification numbers” may be used in artwork to give the impression the mail is from a legitimate organisation.
Words such as “guaranteed” or “100% genuine” as well as precise amounts of money could also be a warning sign.
Mailouts are big business for fraudsters. Postal scams are estimated to cost around £5 million to £10 million in consumer detriment every year.
Since 2016 the National Trading Standards scams team has worked to prevent more than 10 million pieces of fraudulent mail from reaching consumers.
Mailouts it has intercepted include an Australian fake lottery.
The scams team has also identified nearly one million potential victims through its investigative work and is working to refer these to local trading standards for support and advice.
Feelings of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic may make some people more vulnerable to scammers reaching out to them.
Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards scams team, said: “It’s not just vulnerable people who fall prey to scam mail.
“The criminals take great care to ensure their mailings look genuine. Many of us have felt anxious and lonely during the pandemic, and fraudsters will not hesitate to prey on our emotions by sending us fake stories of hope.
“Consumers need to be extra vigilant. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Send us the scam mail and help us prevent more people being conned.”
Scam mail should be addressed to: “NTSST, FREEPOST, MAIL MARSHALS”.
More information about how to prevent scams is available at https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/index.
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, said: “The scamnesty is a new approach to ensure trading standards officers are a step ahead of the criminals.
“Fraudsters are constantly innovating and so must we if we are to continue to disrupt their techniques and protect consumers.
“The intelligence we gather from the scamnesty will be used by trading standards officers to help nullify the criminals’ threat and prevent more scam mail reaching people’s homes.”