Fraud and scam prevention
Protecting vulnerable adults from crime, fraud and scams
Be in the know….about MAIL SCAMS
Scams hit the headlines almost every day with British consumers estimated to lose around £3.5 billion every year – the equivalent of £70 for every adult in the country. However, it is feared this figure is much, much higher as only 5% of scams victims report it to the authorities.
Put simply, scams are designed to cheat someone out of their money or obtain personal details for illegal purposes. Another name for scams is mass marketing fraud because the techniques used are designed to target a large number of people through the mail, telephones and email systems.
If you learn how to recognise a mail scam, then you learn how to protect yourself, your clients, your family and friends. There are many organisations that offer advice and guidance to help you spot a scam, including South Gloucestershire Council Trading Standards, Citizens Advice and Action Fraud.
We all get junk mail through the letter box but some of this junk mail is actually scam mail. The post is an easy way for scammers to contact their victims from anywhere in the world and remain anonymous. Mail scams come in many guises – fake lottery wins, prize draws and associated catalogues or clairvoyants demanding money to predict good or prevent bad luck. Mail scams are designed to trick their victims into parting with money, financial or personal details.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There are some things to look for to help you identify scam mail, including:
- the letter has come out of the blue;
- the postmark and return addresses are overseas;
- they use official looking logos and names;
- your name is mentioned many times throughout the letter and it looks personal to you;
- you are asked to purchase goods or pay a processing or admin fee before your prize is released;
- you are told to respond immediately or within a very tight deadline; or
- you are asked to keep your win a secret.
Those who respond to scam mail often find themselves inundated with similar post from all over the world. This is because their details are added to a mailing list, or ‘suckers list’ that the scammers use to repeatedly target their victims. If you are unsure whether something is genuine, seek advice.
Financially, the impact of scams can be devastating. Victims in South Gloucestershire have lost tens, and even hundreds, of thousands of pounds to mail scams and associated telephone scams. This obviously has an impact upon a victim’s ability to pay their bills, buy food and generally look after themselves properly.
But the effect of mailing scams are not just financial. Victims can be ‘groomed’ by the fraudsters, caught in a cycle of false promises and demands for more money. Victims are frequently told to keep their winnings a secret, being told their family or the authorities are just after the money. This leads to family breakdowns and further isolation.
Once the true extent of what has happened dawns, some victims have been known to take their lives – through shame and embarrassment.
The National Trading Standards Scams team have identified a number of hallmarks that may help family, friends, carers and professionals spot a possible scam mail victim. They include;
- Your relative, friend or client may receive a lot of junk mail and parcels from overseas and may be plagued with nuisance telephone calls. People who respond to scam mail are put on a ‘suckers list’ – a distribution list identifying those who will respond to scam mail and send money or details, which is shared by fraudsters.
- Their home may be full of worthless ‘gifts’ or trinkets, overly expensive cosmetics and vitamins, cakes and confectionary. They may hide letters throughout the home and become upset if people question or challenge them about the letters.
- They may often ask to be taken to the bank, post office or a money transfer business.
- They may unexpectedly or inexplicably become short of money or may write out large numbers of cheques for relatively small amounts.
- They may become secretive about new telephone or mail friends and become upset if asked about them.
- They may become withdrawn or unable to manage their home, financial or personal affairs.
Spot it – Discuss it – Report it!
If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam, or know someone that has, report it to South Gloucestershire Council Trading Standards or the police immediately. In many instances it is not possible to recover money already lost to such scams, but the quicker we respond with the right advice and support then we can help limit further losses.
- South Gloucestershire Trading Standards can be contacted through the Council’s Adult Social Care teams 01454 868007 or via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
- Alternatively, you can report a scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk