More than 6,000 people have had money returned to them as a result of a new crackdown on prize draw mail scams. This action is part of an initiative launched in June by the National Trading Standards Scams Team and Royal Mail to return seized responses to mail scams before the money reaches the hands of scammers.
So far over 6,000 items of mail have been returned as part of the operation in the UK and more than £108,000 has been returned to victims. An additional 4,000 replies to suspected scam mail are currently being assessed with a view to returning the money contained within them. Importantly, people are receiving their money alongside a letter or visit from a local trading standards officer informing them that they have been a victim of a prize draw scam. It is hoped this will deter them from responding to such mail in future.
Prize draw scams are notorious for targeting the elderly and other vulnerable people, who are less likely to realise that the mail is a scam. Victims in this operation have been identified as coming from across the UK and include an 82-year-old woman who was previously distressed about whether the prize draws she was entering were genuine.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“To have reunited so many people with so much money in the months since the project launched is a great achievement and I’m incredibly proud of the work the teams are doing. But our job isn’t finished. We are determined to prevent as much money as possible reaching the hands of these criminals, sending an ever louder message to the scammers that their cowardly activities will not be tolerated.”
Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:
“It is often very difficult to persuade vulnerable, often elderly, individuals that letters telling them they have won large sums of money are scams. The fact that we are able to directly contact them with the money they sent, along with very clear advice, should really help to break the cycle in so many cases. Every cheque or money returned is another person helped and another blow to the criminals, so I’m delighted with the progress made so far and we look forward to continuing this important work.”
“Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of prize draw scams, or thinks someone they know may have been, should get in touch with Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454040506”
Tony Marsh, Director of Security, Royal Mail said:
“Royal Mail does not want any of its customers to be targeted by scammers or to suffer loss as a result of its services. We are very pleased to be part of this initiative to protect some of our most vulnerable customers. People who want to make us aware of potentially fraudulent mail so that we can then work with the relevant authorities to investigate and take action can write to Royal Mail at Freepost Scam Mail or call us on 03456 113 413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org”
It is estimated that prize draw scams cost the UK public £60 million per year, with an estimated 380,000 members of the public falling victim each year.
As part of its work to crack down on mail scams, the National Trading Standards Scams Team has also obtained a list of 160,000 people who have been identified by scammers as repeat victims. These names are being passed to local trading standards officers who are contacting individuals to make them aware they are being targeted.