National Trading Standards (NTS) has issued an urgent public warning after a surge in ‘scam’ lottery letters about the football World Cup in Qatar.
The letters include claims of affiliation to the event alongside ‘official’ logos, while recipients have also been invited to claim a “huge” cash prize. No rewards, however, have so far been evidenced.
Other postal scams regularly seen in recent times include fake overseas lotteries or prize draws, bogus health cures and investment scams, all created to prey on situationally vulnerable people and trick them into sending money.
To combat the scourge of scam letters, the authority has implored members of the public to send in evidence of their own experiences in what is being dubbed the latest ‘Scamnesty’.
Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, commented: “We have a regular flow of mail coming in from our Scam Marshals, but we need the boost that a campaign like this can bring.
“By building a fuller picture of the scams out there we can stay a step ahead of the criminals.
“And as well as sending in their own scam mail, I’d encourage people to talk about Scamnesty with older friends and relatives. They are likely to be at the sharp end of the mailings so the intelligence they can provide is crucial.
“Not only that, but hopefully by raising awareness we can prevent more people from being manipulated by these very convincing, organised criminals.”
This year’s mail Scamnesty runs until December 23, with hopes that it can have a similar impact to that of the first one in 2020; inheritance scam mail.
The average amount requested this year is £48, usually in cash, but if people respond, they can get repeatedly targeted and many victims lose thousands of pounds.
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of NTS, said: “The impact on victims who get lured into responding to scam mail is truly devastating.
“Once they send money to one, more and more mailings land on the doorstep and a terrifying cycle can begin, leading not only to crippling financial loss, but declining physical and mental health. This crime can destroy families as repeat victims often isolate themselves from those trying to help.
“Please, send in your scam mail so we can protect your loved ones, and stop the harm these criminals cause.”
So far this year, the NTS Scams Team has returned more than £65,000 to consumers who had paid money to criminals; supported trading standards officers to save victims more than £950,000 through interventions via home visits; and saved the taxpayer nearly £23m overall by disrupting the work of the phone and mail scam criminals.
John Herriman, CEO of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), added: “Trading Standards professionals witness the devastating effects of scam mail day in and day out.
“The criminals behind these letters prey on the most vulnerable in our society, and at this time of year those that feel isolated and lonely are more inclined to respond to scam mail arriving out of the blue.
“Our lead officers have witnessed horrific cases whereby victims have lost over £100,000 to scam mail, it’s a terrible cycle that some find it hard to get out of as the scammers often befriend their victims to build a level of trust.
“Raising awareness is key and CTSI fully supports this fantastic initiative and we encourage our members to take part in ‘Scamnesty’ to help stop these crooks in their tracks.”