Postal scams are letters sent with the sole intention of obtaining money through deception or fraud.
There are many different types of scam mail, such as fake lotteries and prize draws, get-rich-quick schemes, bogus health cures, investment scams and pyramid selling.
It’s important to note there is a difference between scam mail and legitimate mail sent by companies to advertise lawful services or the sale of genuine goods.
Postal scams typically offer something that sounds attractive but in reality doesn’t exist.
There’s always a catch – you’ll often have to pay up front to receive what’s on offer, and this type of scam is called advance-fee fraud.
Two of the most common scams of this type are non-existent competitions and fake foreign lotteries.
So, before responding you should always consider whether what’s on offer seems too good to be true. If it does, then it’s likely to be a scam.
You may receive a letter saying you’ve won a large amount of money on an overseas or online lottery.
The first thing to do is to consider whether you’ve actually entered an online or overseas lottery. Most people who receive these letters haven’t entered a lottery draw.
If you do respond and provide your personal information, the fraudsters will ask you to pay various fees so that they can release your non-existent winnings.
Each time you make a payment, the fraudsters will come up with a reason why your winnings can’t be paid out unless you make another payment.
Again, if you’re told you’ve unexpectedly won a prize, the first thing to consider is whether you’ve ever entered a prize draw.
The likelihood is that you haven’t, so your 'win' is likely to be a scam.
Often a condition of these prizes is that you need to send money to claim your prize. But you may never receive the prize or it may not be what you expected.
Any legitimate organisation will pay these upfront costs; anyone asking for a fee in advance shouldn’t be trusted.
Should you fall for one of these scams, there is a chance that you’ll be targeted again, as personal details are added to so-called ‘suckers lists’, which are then sold on to other fraudsters.
There are also certain letter styles that are continually used in competition or lottery scam mail:
A letter containing these and promising you’ve won a prize draw or lottery you’ve never entered should ring alarm bells and you should never reply.
Royal Mail is bound by a Universal Service Obligation and is required by law to deliver all mail entrusted to it.
So don’t trust something just because it’s been delivered.
People who want to report a potential postal scam can write to Royal Mail at Freepost Scam Mail, phone 03456 113413 or email email@example.com.