Mail scams make fraudulent claims to try to con you out of your money. The following are common types of mail scams:
You may be told that you’ve won a large sum of money or a prize and asked to pay an administration fee before you can collect it. Often you won’t remember entering a lottery – this is likely to be because you haven’t entered one and it’s a scam. The prize is either non-existent or worth very little. You might be asked for further payments or to call a premium rate number before this becomes clear. A genuine lottery won’t ask you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
These may claim to have seen something in your future and ask for money to disclose what it is. These letters may be sinister or even threatening.
These can take the form of chain letters (which can be illegal) or selling schemes. In either case, you may be encouraged to send money to the person who has contacted you, either through the promise of great rewards, or by threats about what might happen if the chain is broken.
Junk mail is unsolicited mail advertising products and services. While the consequences of receiving it aren’t as serious as scam mail, it can be irritating.
Companies in the UK are required to follow certain rules when sending out direct marketing. By registering with the Mailing Preference Service you can have your name taken off most direct mailing lists, although the service does not cover mail that is unaddressed, addressed to ‘The Occupier’ or originates overseas.
Once you’re registered, companies shouldn’t contact you, and you can complain to the Mailing Preference Service if they do. Avoid being added to mailing lists. When you register to vote, tick the box to opt out of the ‘edited register’ as this can be used to send unsolicited marketing mail. If you buy a product online, you will usually be asked if you want to receive direct mail or marketing emails from the company – make sure you tick or untick the right box if you don’t want them to contact you.
Scammers sometimes send out authentic looking scam mail claiming to be from banks and building societies, asking for information and/or cash.
A card is posted through the victim’s door stating that a delivery service was unable to deliver a parcel and that they need to contact the service by phone. The card gives a premium rate number to call. This turns out to be long recorded message and the victim receives a hefty phone bill.
If you receive a scam letter, ignore it and throw it away. Never reply to these letters. If you do, your details could be circulated to others running similar schemes and you could end up being bombarded with scam mail.
If you receive something addressed to you that looks like a scam, you can report it to Action Fraud. You could also tell the Royal Mail and send the items of mail to them with a covering letter. Many criminals who send scam letters are based overseas, so they are unregulated and largely beyond the reach of UK Authorities.