Nasty scam mail containing false promises of good luck and riches are being targeted by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service this July as part of Scams Awareness Month 2017.
Warwickshire Trading Standards are aware of many scam mail victims, some of whom have lost thousands to bogus clairvoyants and scam lotteries. One elderly Leamington Spa resident was sending money to so many scam mail fraudsters that she couldn’t afford to pay her utility bills and fell in to debt. She was constantly promised big prize pay-outs, but this was really a ruse to sell her cheap ornaments and other products she didn’t really want or need. Another Leamington resident paid out over £12,000 in the course of a year and was sending between £500 and £1000 each month to receive her ‘prizes’. She had received scam letters from the USA and Australia, telling her she had won large prizes in lotteries and prize draws.
A man from Rugby who had savings of over £20,000 found himself in debt after sending money to postal scam fraudsters who had promised that he had won cars, lotteries and other prizes, despite the fact that he had never entered any competitions.
A South Warwickshire resident paid out over £1000 is a single month to postal fraudsters who she believed were her ‘friends’. She was told she had won a large sum of money, but instead, the fraudsters were actually selling her huge quantities of vitamin pills. In a similar case another resident was reported to have been bombarded with prize draw letters claiming she had won £133,683.64. She sent money to receive her prize, but in reality, this simply paid for some cakes and biscuits, no ‘winnings’ ever materialised.
At another residents property, Trading Standards Officers recovered over 29 bags of scam mail and in North Warwickshire a postal scam victim was regularly sending £20 notes in the post to ‘claim a prize’ and had revealed his bank account and card numbers to fraudsters.
Warwickshire County Councillor Howard Roberts, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said:
“We’ve all seen them, envelopes stamped ‘Euro Lottery Winner’, ‘Official Government Award’ or ‘Good Luck Inside’ and most of us will immediately consign them to the recycling bin. Unfortunately though some people do respond, sending money, cheques and in some cases their bank account numbers and PINS. These people are then drawn in to the scam, paying out ever more money in the hope of receiving a pay-out that will never come.
“In Warwickshire, our Trading Standards Officers are working locally with Royal Mail postal workers and nationally with the National Scams Team to identify and support these victims, intercepting their letters and returning their money.”
Most postal scams rely upon the recipient believing they have won a lottery prize or are entitled to a gift or Government pay-out, in return for an ‘administration fee’. In reality, the cash prize or pay-out never materialises and the ‘gift’ is usually worth considerably less than the cost of receiving it. Some postal scams, particularly those sent by bogus clairvoyants are more sinister, frightening recipients into paying out for ‘lucky charms’ to avoid receiving bad luck, which it is claimed, might endanger themselves or their families.
The names and addresses of those who respond regularly to scam mail are shared or sold on, leading to victims to being bombarded with even more bogus post.
Across the UK reports of scams and frauds have risen by 8% this year to an estimated 3.6 million cases. UK residents are believed to lose over £10 billion to frauds and scams each year.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Scam Mail:
- Always ignore letters with offers that sound too good to be true, they probably are.
- Be wary of letters that tell you to keep things a secret or instruct you to act quickly
- Never provide bank details to people you don’t know and don’t share personal details or official documents
- You can’t win a competition you didn’t enter
- Never send money to receive a prize or Government pay out
- Receiving large amounts of post or items such as cheap jewellery or ‘lucky’ objects can suggest the person is a postal scam victim. Keep an eye on friends and family.
- Fraudsters buy names and addresses from marketing companies. Don’t divulge your personal details in marketing surveys, questionnaires, competitions and prize draws at home, online or in the street.
- Make sure your details are not added to the ‘Edited Electoral Register’ (sold for marketing purposes)
- Stay up to date with the latest local scam warnings. Sign up to the free Trading Standards email alert service at: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/scams or follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WarksTSS
Make a consumer complaint
The Citizens Advice Consumer Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Call the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 (English language).