Preston gets more scam mail than any other region in Lancashire, according to the county council – but a month-long campaign aims to stop people falling prey to cons that could cost them thousands of pounds.
Scams Awareness Month, run nationally by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), calls for anyone who receives scam mail to put it into “Scamnesty” bins in police stations and council buildings so the sender can be tracked down.
The mail cons people into handing over money or personal details by promising rewards such as cash prizes, career opportunities and the services of fortune-tellers.
“People are getting scammed left, right and centre,” said Lee Ormandy from Lancashire Trading Standards. “It’s becoming an increasing problem – more people are more likely to be taken in by the scams.”
According to OFT figures, one UK adult in every 15 falls victim to such fraud each year. In total, these cons cost the public £3.5bn annually.
Credit crunch blamed for rise
The economic downturn could be responsible for such an increase, Mr Ormandy said; “If you’re a little bit harder up, and then you get a letter saying you’ve won 50 million pounds, it can take over your judgment a little bit. It gives people false hope.”
Mr Ormandy told Blog Preston that older people were particularly at risk.
“If someone over 55 replies to a scam, they are less likely to report it,” he said. “You’ve also got the embarrassment factor, which compounds the problem.”
Replying means people’s details are added to a “suckers list”, allowing con artists to target them with more fraudulent mail in the future. The website Think Jessica tells the story of an 83-year-old woman who ended up receiving around 30 scams in the post every day.
Mail handed in so far in Preston contains promises such as “You’re about to be shown a guaranteed way for you to make £30-£100 every single day of the week!” and “Either you lose 10 pounds every week, or you get every penny back! Soon YOU will be called the skinny one!”
Mr Ormandy said most of these cons originated outside Lancashire and some outside the country altogether.
“We’re urging people just to be a little bit cynical,” he added. “If there’s any doubt, throw it in the bin, delete it, or put the phone down.”
Have you received any scam mail lately? Leave a comment and let us know.