The various methods used by scammers to gather consumer information is startling. With technology evolving daily and the channels we use to communicate with one another expanding, so do the tactics employed by unscrupulous individuals to collect our data in attempts to defraud us of our hard-earned money and precious time.
Despite the development of email and smartphone technology, scammers still turn to a traditional and familiar method of communicating with attempted targets – by direct mail, and through postal methods.
With the amount of mail coming through our doors over the festive period set to increase with the delivery of Christmas cards, and supermarket leaflets and magazines advertising the latest offers, it is the ideal opportunity for the unexpected and unsolicited contacts to slip through the net.
Changes to the way we communicate
Ofcom, the regulator for communication services highlight that the number of letters people send and receive has fallen by around 5% each year since 2015, with people turning to email and other methods of communication. Despite the reductions in the numbers of letters, online shopping has seen overall parcel volumes increase by around 10% each year, with 2020 being no exception.
Royal Mail has reported that during the Covid-19 pandemic, UK parcel volumes have increased by 31% between April and September. Direct mail scams and fraud initiated through postal means continue, with scammers adapting to these changes.
Recent scams have adapted to include fake notifications of missed parcel deliveries that look like the official ‘calling cards’ left by delivery companies and the Royal Mail themselves.
Direct Mail / Postal Scam Formats
- Lottery / Prize Draw Scams – These scams can state that the recipient has won a large sum of money in a lottery or prize draw and that in order to claim, they should contact a premium rate number, or alternatively that a sum of money has to be paid as an administration fee to release the funds. Unless you have entered a prize draw, or bought a lottery ticket, chances are that any communication of this nature will be a scam. You will never be asked to pay ‘administration’ or ‘money release’ fees to claim a prize after a legitimate win.
- Share Scams – These scams come in the form of a letter advising that you have shares with a company that promise big returns. These scams will often ask the recipient to contact a premium rate number or pay a fee for the shares. Like lottery and prize draw scams, you should consider whether you actually have the shares and avoid calling premium rate numbers, or paying for the release of funds.
- Psychic Contact – These scams can indicate that a psychic or clairvoyant has a message for you about your future or from a deceased love one. These scams can be carried out in collaboration with other scams that advise of a windfall and are used to pray on the emotions and hopes of individuals.
- Inheritance Scams – These scams can advise that you have a long lost relative that has passed away (very often the scammers use the same surname to seem legitimate) and have left you large sums of money that require legal fees to be paid to release the funds.
- Other ‘money’ scams – There are various formats that scammers use to try and seem legitimate and entice consumers into phoning premium rate numbers or into making advanced payments for the release of funds. These can request payment for the transfer of funds from abroad and may look official in nature. Additionally, offers of investment opportunities such as timeshares and in pyramid schemes can be scammer’s attempts to trick us into parting with our cash.
So, what can we do when faced with the various methods and tactics employed by these scammers to avoid being caught out? How can we reduce the amount of junk and unsolicited mail that we receive?
There is no ‘cure all’ in this respect, but there are things we can do to reduce the amount of junk mail we receive and to check the legitimacy of the claims made.
You can put signs on your door stating that you do not want to receive junk mail. Although this will not stop all forms of unsolicited mail, it could help to reduce the volumes coming through your letterbox.
Mailing Preference Service
The Mailing Preference Service is a list of names and addresses of consumers who have registered and advised that they wish to limit the amount of direct mail they receive. This stops advertising and sales companies who use direct mail as a method of advertising from sending promotional material and ‘junk mail’, as they adhere to the Code of Practice of the Data and Marketing Association and other advertising regulatory bodies in the UK.
You can register with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) here. Registration | MPS Online
‘Opt-out’ on voting registration
When you register to vote, there is an option to opt out of the ‘edited register’ (or ‘open register’) which is sometimes used by companies to send marketing material. This is a mailing list that scammers can sometimes use to find potential targets of scams. You can opt out by checking the relevant box.
Know the parties you are dealing with
By knowing the organisations, companies, and people that we are dealing with, we can make informed judgements about continuing with any transactions. Look for registration with professional bodies and regulators and use official channels to research the sender of the mail. Be wary of fake links and contact details that may be on the direct mail or correspondence that you have received, as this could be attempts to legitimise the scam by providing false information to seem legitimate.
Report suspected scams and suspicious activity
You can report suspected scams and suspicious activity 24-hours a day using the consumeradvice.scot Quick Reporting Tool at scamwatch.scot, or by speaking to one of our specialist consumer advisers on 0808 164 6000.
We work with local authority and national Trading Standards teams to investigate scams and the impacts that these have on consumers. By reporting a scam, you can help us in our work to protect consumers from being scammed.
Remember consumeradvice.scot top tips for avoiding direct mail and postal scams this festive season –
- Register with the Mailing Preference Service – this may help to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive.
- Put up signs – You can put signs up on your door stating, ‘No Junk Mail’. This can be helpful, but it is not guaranteed that it will stop all junk mail being delivered.
- opt out of the edited / open register on voting registration – this can limit the places where scammers can find you.
- Research the source of the mail – By understanding where mail has come from, using official and self-sourced channels to research the sender, we can avoid being caught out
- Report suspected scams and suspicious activity at scamwatch.scot – Help us to do our work in protecting Scottish consumers from the scammers.
If you are concerned about scams or think that you have been scammed, consumeradvice.scot are able to offer free and practical advice on this, and other consumer issues.
You can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
You can report suspected scams and suspicious activity by visiting www.scamwatch.scot.
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