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Q1082: What is a postal scam?

A postal scam is a letter sent with the sole intention of gaining money through deception. Scam mail is mass produced and made to look like a personal letter or important document, to trick the recipient into sending cash, making money transfers or disclosing personal information.

Here are common types of postal scams to be aware of:

Lotteries and prize draws 
These are two of the most common scams. Victims are told they have won a fantastic prize or large amount of cash but are asked to send some sort of fee to release it. A genuine lottery won't ever ask you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.

Psychics and clairvoyants
Scammers claiming to be able to see into the future, say they have information about your impending fate and you must pay them to find out what it is.

Parcel delivery scam
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 on the number provided on the card. This is usually a premium rate number with a long recorded message, causing the victim to receive an expensive phone bill.

Pyramid schemes
A scammer advertises an investment scheme and claims it offers extraordinary profits for little or no risk. You are required to pay a fee to enter the scheme and get financial rewards for recruiting friends or family to also enter the scheme. In reality the product you are investing in is usually worthless or non-existent and your money is not invested but simply passed on to the scammers.

Here are some steps to prevent you from falling victim to postal scams:

  • Never respond to scam letters, as you are likely to get more if you do.
  • Be wary of anyone who writes to you out of the blue, claiming that you have won something or can earn high rewards for a low investment.
  • Does the letter contain bad spelling or grammar? If so, it's likely to be a scam.
  • If a letter claims to be from a genuine source, contact the relevant organisation using details from their website and not those provided in the correspondence.
  • Are they asking you for money? Always start from the position that any request for money is suspicious unless proven otherwise. Don't send any money.
  • If you have received scam post and you are worried, talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member.

Although many people feel embarrassed about falling for a scam, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and you should not be worried about reporting it. Many people fall victim to scams, and fraudsters have a range of techniques to trick people and are trying new scams all the time.

If you believe you have fallen victim to a postal scam you can report the incident to Action Fraud, please see the link in related information.

Postal scams can also be reported to Royal Mail, who run a joint initiative with Trading Standards to investigate reports of scam mail.

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