Fight against mail scams intensifies during Scams Awareness Month
Vulnerable consumers have been saved more than £5 million* over the past three years thanks to the work of the National Trading Standards Scams Team (NTSST), new data reveals. Since its inception, the team has directly stopped at least £2.7 million from making its way in to the hands of criminals and has supported local trading standards teams to make savings of a further £2.3m**.
The specialist team has so far identified nearly 200,000 potential victims who appear on so-called ‘suckers lists’ used by scammers. The average age of victims is 74, showing that these criminals tend to prey on older – and often more vulnerable – members of society. The total amount of money lost by 10,843 identified victims is £1,184 per person, or nearly £13 million in total.
The NTSST is releasing these figures to highlight the scale of the issue during Scams Awareness Month, and to urge people to be vigilant and look out for relatives or neighbours who may be vulnerable to mass marketing scams.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“To have saved consumers more than £5 million in three years is a great achievement and shows the powerful effect the National Trading Standards Scams Team is having. However, we know our work is not done. Criminal scammers are targeting some of the most vulnerable people in society - ripping them off in many cases for thousands of pounds. We are going to continue in our fight to protect consumers and we urge you to help us by reporting suspected cases of postal fraud to the Royal Mail.”
The call to action comes as National Trading Standards and the Royal Mail continue their joint initiative to train post men and women recognise the tactics used by mail scammers and to identify potentially vulnerable households. This week saw training sessions take place at Royal Mail delivery offices across the UK and more than 2000 post men and women have been trained to date, resulting in over 70 households being helped to avoid falling prey to mail scammers.
The NTSST works with over 30 partners who all help to identify the silent victims of scams. The NTSST pass all the victim intelligence to local Trading Standards who work directly with scam victims, helping to raise awareness and educate victims about scams and showing them how to safeguard themselves in future. One example includes an elderly lady from Wales who – having previously been repeatedly scammed which depleted her life savings – has now stopped responding to scam mail, resulting in a considerable financial saving to her (more information below).
Louise Baxter, Team Manager of the National Trading Standards Scams Team said:
“Since 2012 we’ve supported more than 20,000 consumers who have been deceived by mail scams, saving millions of pounds in consumer detriment as well as providing emotional support to help safeguard vulnerable victims. We will continue our work with partners like Royal Mail and local Trading Standards teams to disrupt criminal mass marketing scams. We really need the public to help us with this – by being vigilant about mass marketing scams themselves but also looking out for relatives or neighbours, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable. We often find victims who have lost £100,000s over several years; the impact on individuals and consumers is devastating.
“I would urge anyone who receives potentially fraudulent mail or who knows someone who might be receiving it to report it to the Royal Mail helpline on 03456 113413 or to email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Reports to Citizens Advice show that two in five of all postal scams are lotteries or prize draws, inviting people to claim a prize for a competition they haven’t entered. One caller to Citizens Advice reported that a relative had been repeatedly targeted with prize draw scams, parting with more than £10,000 in fees to claim a prize that didn’t exist.
For more information on National Trading Standards and its teams please visit http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/. For more information on Scams Awareness Month – which is being led by Citizens Advice – and to download campaign materials and resources, please visit https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/campaigns/current_campaigns/scams-awareness-month/scams-awareness-month/.
For more information about this case please contact the National Trading Standards communications team on 020 7025 7570 or e-mail email@example.com.
* Figure based on funds stopped from reaching criminals, returned to consumers and predicted savings figures from local authorities.
** All figures from National Trading Standards Scams Team correct as of June 2015.
Notes to Editors
- People who want to make Royal Mail aware of potentially fraudulent mail so that they can 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
- Alternatively, you can contact Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 03454 04 05 06, writing to Citizens Advice consumer service, Post Point 24, Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston super Mare, North Somerset, BS23 1UJ or by completing an online form here: https://forms.adviceguide.org.uk/complaint_post.aspx
National Trading Standards Board
- The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
- The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
- For further information about National Trading Standards please visit: www.nationaltradingstandards.uk
National Trading Standards Scams Team
- The National Trading Standards Scams Team works in partnership with other agencies across the country to identify and support victims of mass marketing fraud.
Scams Awareness Month
- 5,756 fraud and scam cases were seen by local Citizens Advice between April 2014 and March 2015. Client age was known in 91% of these cases. Data is based on the 5,221 cases where age was available.
- From April 2014 March 2015, Citizens Advice dealt with 20,689 fraud and scam cases. This comprises 14,933 cases dealt with by the Consumer Service, and 5,756 cases handled by local Citizens Advice.
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens
- Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality
- To find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or to get advice online, visit citizensadvice.org.uk.
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.