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Postal scams

Postal scams are getting more sophisticated and it can be difficult to spot the difference between scam mail, junk mail and offers from legitimate companies.

What is a postal scam?

Postal scams are sent in the mail. They can be addressed to you directly, and even use your name. They contain fake claims or offers that are designed to con you out of your money.

What are some common types of postal scams?

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

Lotteries and prize draws

You may receive a letter congratulating you on winning a cash prize. These often look legitimate, with barcodes or ID numbers. The letter might ask you to pay an administration fee, buy a product or call a premium-rate phone number to claim your winnings. Don’t respond to these letters, even if they look genuine. A genuine lottery won’t ever ask you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.

Bills from companies you don't use

If you get a bill from a provider and you're not sure if you have an account with them, find the company's contact details in the phone book or online and ask them directly.

Psychics and clairvoyants

Psychics and clairvoyants may send a letter claiming to have seen something in your future and asking for money to disclose what it is. Sometimes these scammers will co-ordinate with lottery and prize scams to give the impression that they're predicting a bit of good luck. 

Pyramid schemes

Pyramid investment schemes will ask you to pay a fee or buy products and recruit friends or family to take part in the scheme before you get a return on your investment.

Strangers who need help

With these types of stories, the fraudster may claim to have lost all of their money in unfortunate circumstances or that they need to pay for an operation, and will ask you for money. But these stories are fake. 

Unclaimed inheritance

You may receive a letter addressed to you, which tells you that someone has left you money in their will. These letters can mention real law firms and even have seemingly genuine email addresses, postal addresses, or websites. 

Advance fee fraud

You may receive a request to help transfer money out of another country in return for a substantial reward. Often the letter will appear to be from a Government official or lawyer. 

Fake job offers

These usually involve an offer of work to do at home if you first send a registration fee. You may even receive an offer of an interview over the telephone. Legitimate employment agencies won't charge you a registration fee.

How can I protect myself from postal scams?

If you receive a postal scam, there are things you can do to avoid the scammers getting your money:

  • Reject: If you receive a letter that you think is a scam, ignore it and throw it away. Never reply.
  • Report: Join the . You send them your scam mail so they can catch the scammers.
  • Ignore: Don't call any premium-rate phone lines. These numbers start with 09 and can cost up to £4 per minute.
  • Verify: If you're unsure, check the details of the organisation. Find the organisation's details using the phone book or via their official website. Never use the contact details listed on the scam letter, as it's likely they'll be set up by the scammer.
  • Opt out: Try to avoid being added to mailing lists. For example, when you register to vote, tick the box to opt out of the 'edited register' (also known as the 'open register'), as this can be used to send unsolicited marketing mail.
  • Reduce: Register with the . This will stop many of the direct-mailing companies from contacting you.

What should I do if I receive a postal scam?

If you've received a postal scam, there's support available:

  • : Contact Royal Mail if you think you've received scam mail and send it to them with a covering letter.
  • : Contact them by phone or online if you've received a postal scam.
  • : If you get a letter from a solicitor, and aren't sure if it's genuine, they can tell you if the solicitor's firm is registered and check a list of reported scams on their website.
  • : If you'd like more information about scams, or would like to report a scam, contact Action Fraud.

Find out more about what support is available if you've been scammed

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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