Mail scam victims in North East Lincolnshire were cheated out of almost £150,000 last year, according to new figures collated by the council’s Trading Standards team.
North East Lincolnshire Trading Standards can confirm that in the last financial year, people in the area are known to have lost at least £148,075 to postal scams.
What’s frightening is that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg – it doesn’t take into account other residents who are suffering in silence and have not sought help.
The figures have been released as part of Scams Awareness Month, where Trading Standards and Citizens Advice join forces to help stop people falling prey to unscrupulous con artists.
Mail scams have been well documented throughout the UK, with a clear pattern emerging as to the methods used by criminals to gain people’s trust, tricking them out of billions of pounds every year.
Many of these letters can appear to be genuine, with logos, contact details and addresses, as well as the recipients details, and usually take the form of a ‘winning ticket’, or congratulatory letter confirming a lottery win.
However, they often require the recipient to acknowledge that they have received the letter, and either telephone a premium number, send money to cover admin charges, or pass on their bank details to enable the transfer.
The phone call is an insidious trick to ‘befriend’ the person targeted and elicit reassurance that their ‘scam’ is a legitimate offer. More money is often requested at this point – often to cover ‘administration charges to process their win’.
Cllr Jane Hyldon-King, portfolio holder for Health and Wellbeing at North East Lincolnshire Council, said such mail scams were often aimed at the elderly and most vulnerable members of our community, adding:
“Our Trading Standards team went to the aid of a local woman who was being bombarded with junk mail offers and nuisance phone calls.
“The woman’s case came to light when cheques she’d written were found during a raid on the premises of a mail scammer and the local Trading Standards team were alerted.
“She was caring for her husband who was very ill and was finding hard to cope with surge of mail and calls at inconvenient times.
“The victim had been targeted repeatedly but had stopped sending off cheques and had asked callers to stop ringing her, to no avail.
“She said she’d been at breaking point and did not know what to do, until Trading Standards got in touch and showed her how to stop the mail approaches and change her number.”
Neil Clark, Trading Standards manager at the Council, said: “We have helped 89 victims of scams this year alone and in some cases where the victim is known to be a repeat victim offered a 1-2-1 service were we have worked with the person to enable them to become more confident in managing such approaches and saying ‘no’.
“We know Scammers want their victims to focus on the fictitious prizes and not on the money that they are sending. We also know anyone responding to scam mail could end up having their name put on a ‘suckers list’.
“These lists are then sold on to other criminals worldwide and the approaches are repeated, often resulting in more scam letters being received.”
By simply returning the mail to sender (no stamp necessary), you can lessen the risk of being taken in by similar scams in the future.
In another local case, officers helped an elderly man post back several carrier bags full of junk mail marked ‘return to sender – addressee unknown’. The junk mail virtually stopped after he’d done this.
If telephone calls are received with unwanted sales offers and the number of calls become too many to manage, Trading Standards advise considering changing your phone number with your service provider .