Scams: how to spot and beat them

Postal scams

Examples of the more commonly reported postal scams include:

  • “prize draw or lottery” – letters claiming you have won a high value prize and all you have to do is send a small amount of money to claim your winnings
  • “clairvoyant scams” – letters from people posing as clairvoyants or mystics claiming they can help banish bad luck and increase your good fortune and all you have to do is send a small contribution or buy a trinket or charm from them
  • “mail order / brochure scam” – regular flyers offering various goods to purchase, including food, health-related products or general household items at inflated prices and usually involving an entry to a prize draw
  • “beneficiary scam” – a letter received from a stranger representing a bank or legal practice, claiming you could benefit from helping them arrange the transfer of a large sum of money from overseas

How to avoid falling victim to postal scams

Here are a few tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a postal scam:

  • received a letter out of the blue – be suspicious
  • informed you have won a prize for a competition – do you remember entering the competition, if not, ask yourself how can you win if you haven’t entered
  • are you being asked to make a payment or buy something in order to claim a prize?
  • never trust testimonials from ‘previous winners’ or people who claim to have benefited from responding to the sender
  • are you being told not to tell anyone else or that you have been specially chosen – ask yourself why?
  • is the sender acting like a ‘friend’ when in fact you don’t know who they are?
  • is the sender claiming they want to help protect you from bad luck and being overly concerned about you – ask yourself why?
  • never be rushed into making a quick decision because you have a limited time to claim a prize or you may miss out on what is being offered
  • never dial a premium rate (09) telephone number provided on a letter
  • never give your bank card details to someone you’ve never met
  • if in doubt, don’t respond

Trust your gut feeling – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If you’re unsure whether something is genuine or not, ask someone else to see what they think.

How to help protect yourself from postal scams

You can reduce the amount unwanted personally addressed marketing mail by registering with the Mail Preference Service (MPS).

To help reduce the amount of unaddressed mail, (such as "Dear Householder" or "To The Occupier") you can tell Royal Mail to stop delivering junk mail to your home. You will to need to download a form from Royal Mail, fill it in and post it to “Freepost Royal Mail Customer Services”.

Finally, if you receive any post and suspect it is a scam, do not respond to it and do not be afraid to dispose of it by shredding or remove your personal details before putting it in the bin!