Public urged to help combat scam mail
Friends Against Scams launch ‘Scamnesty' initiative.
A new offensive to combat the scourge of scam mail has been launched. Members of the public are being urged to send the National Trading Standards Scams Team examples of scam mail they receive in the post as part of a new ‘scamnesty’. The scamnesty will help trading standards officers build intelligence about the criminals behind the latest scam being sent to Brits this winter.
Organised criminals try to con the public by sending scam mail through the post such as:
- fake lottery draws
- romance scams
- unclaimed inheritance scams
- and clairvoyant scams
However, fraudsters are continually adapting their criminal techniques. To disrupt the criminals, the public are being urged to join Friends Against Scams and send in examples of scam mail.
How to spot scam mail
The criminals use a wide range of measures to create an illusion of legitimacy and give people false hope of a big payout or a better life. Scam mail often includes a competition question to hook recipients into the scam. Consumers are advised that some of the tricks the scammers use include:
- Personalising mail using the recipient’s name throughout as well as on images such as certificates and cheques
- Artwork that purports to be genuine, for instance the use of a seal or crest and fonts that suggest they come from a financial institution or official body
- Words like’ guaranteed’ or ‘100% genuine’ as well as precise amounts of money
- Signatures from officials with senior ranking titles and identification numbers that suggest legitimacy
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.”
A new report on how trading standards officers disrupt criminals’ behaviour, confirms what householders know: this illegal activity is big business. Since 2016 the National Trading Standards Scams Team, with the help of more than 600,000 Friends Against Scams, has prevented over 10 million pieces of fraudulent mail from reaching consumers.
Effective disruption techniques have resulted in more than £100 million in financial savings and estimated healthcare & health related quality of life savings for UK consumers and the UK economy. The scale of the problem is significant: the NTS Scams Team has identified nearly 1 million potential victims through its investigative work and is working to refer these to local trading standards for support and advice.
The Scams Team use so-called ‘disruptive techniques’ to prevent scam mail reaching people’s homes. In 2019 the Team prevented 40,000 mailings a month about an Australian fake lottery reaching consumers. Also in 2019 an American criminal was prevented by trading standards officers from using a mail provider in the South West to send up to 80,000 items of scam mail a month to addresses in the UK and abroad.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair 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.”
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