Lottery/prize draw scams
The scam: you receive a letter congratulating you on winning a cash prize. If you respond to the letter, you’ll be asked to pay a fee before the prize is ‘released’.
The reality: you won’t receive any prize and you may be asked to pay further increasing fees or to call a premium-rate number.
Psychic and clairvoyant scammers
The scam: someone claiming to be able to see into the future tells you that they have important information about your impending fate. You must pay them money if you want to find out what it is.
The reality: your pet hamster probably has more psychic powers. Their vision of the future is likely to be false.
Pyramid scheme scams
The scam: you receive a letter telling you about a great business investment that involves huge profits with zero risks. You usually have to pay to join the scheme and you get financial rewards for recruiting other ‘members’.
The reality: the product you’re investing in is usually worthless or non-existent. Your money is not invested but simply passed on to the fraudsters. You might get small payouts at the beginning to convince you that this is a legitimate scheme and to trick you into investing more money.
Hard-luck story scams
The scam: the scammer writes to you with a sob story. They might be terminally ill and require an expensive operation to heal them. They might have lost all their money due to an unfortunate accident or event.
The reality: these stories are completely fake. Don’t respond.
Advance fee fraud
The scam: you get a letter asking you to help a millionaire in a war-torn country to transfer their millions into a UK bank account for safe keeping. In return they will pay you a substantial reward. The letter might be from an individual, a government official or a lawyer.
The reality: if you respond, you’ll be asked to pay various fees or you may be asked for your bank details. The truth is there is no money to transfer and the fraudsters will use your details to try to steal the money in your account.
Unclaimed inheritance scams
The scam: you get a letter from a ‘solicitor’ telling you that someone has left you money in their will. The letter may claim to be from a genuine law firm with a postal address, email or website that looks real.
The reality: it’s highly unlikely that someone you don’t know would leave you money in their will. You can check whether a solicitor is genuine by contacting the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Bogus debt letters
The scam: you get a letter claiming to be from a debt recovery agency, chasing an unpaid utility bill or something similar. They threaten to take legal action against you if the bill isn’t paid. Letters might be faked to look like they’ve come from other official sources, such as HMRC. It’s more common for these copycat scams to arrive as emails, but some do send letters, too.
The reality: this is an empty threat and no such debt or bill exists. Always check directly with the company in question (eg the utility company or HMRC) to see if a letter is genuine before paying anything. Contact the organisation using the number from their website or an old bill.
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