There are many different types of mail scams with new ones appearing regularly.  There are too many to cover independently but they all have at least one thing in common, to con as much money out of their victim as possible.

In many cases, scam mail is very believable as the scammers use modern technology to produce high quality and very personal letters.  Like many other scams they are aimed at the vulnerable and on occasions exploit a person's personal circumstances and vulnerabilities to aid their ill-gotten gains.

Although there are many different types of scam mail, there are common characteristics to help you identify if the letter you have received is a scam.  The main ways are listed below:

  • You have received the letter out of the blue
  • You have won a high value prize or cash for a competition you have never entered
  • You're told to keep the letter a secret
  • You're asked to make an advanced payment to receive your prize
  • You're asked to give personal details or passwords
  • You're required to act fast to avoid disappointment
  • The originating and return addresses are often outside of the UK, places like Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and sometimes further afield places like Australia and the US
  • Above all, it sounds too good to be true!

Some of the main scams include Lottery Draws, Psychics and Clairvoyants and Health and Food scams, each are discussed below.  Please note that each scam includes many of the common characteristics above.

How to avoid falling victim to scam mail

Never respond to unsolicited letters which ask you to pay money upfront to receive a prize or cash.  If you are unsure always ask a friend or family member for a second opinion.  If you receive a suspicious letter that you believe to be a scam you can report it to Action Fraud by telephone on 0300 1123 2040 or on their website https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/  

If you want to check mail you have received, please do not hesitate to contact Hartlepool Trading Standards on 01429 523352.

Always remember to shred any mail before you bin it, as it will contain personal details such as your name and address.

Do not even reply if it is to say stop

Never respond to scam mail even if it is to say stop, your name will be added to a list of scam targets, known as a suckers list, meaning you will receive even more scam mail.

Junk Mail

Junk mail is unsolicited mail which advertises products and services.  Although it is technically not scam mail it can still be quite annoying.  To help reduce junk mail, remember to check the 'opt out of advertising mail' box when you buy anything online.  You can also add your address to the mailing preference service (see MPS below) to help reduce it.

The Mailing Preference Service (MPS)

The Mailing Preference Service is a free service for people to have their names and home addresses removed from mailing lists used by the advertising industry.

In simple terms the MPS should reduce unsolicited mail sent from companies who are members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and take steps to prevent the receipt of unsolicited mail from companies which are not members of the DMA.  Unfortunately though the MPS cannot stop mail sent from overseas, mail addressed to the occupier and non addressed material from takeaways etc that get delivered by hand.

To learn more about the MPS and to register please go to the Mailing Preference Service website at www.mpsonline.org.uk