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Not all mail is merry this time of year

Not all mail is merry this time of year

21 December 2016
Letterbox and post

This is the season of busy letterboxes, but not everything popping through them brings festive cheer.


Mass marketing fraud (MMF) is big business for all the wrong reasons, and if it isn't happening to you there's a good chance it is to someone you know.

An estimated 3.2million people in the UK are victims of it every year, with between £1.2 and £5.8billion lost annually.

It's a crime where victims are persuaded to part with their money in exchange for something bigger through unsolicited scam letters, and increasingly emails and phone calls.

Examples include fictitious prize draws, false investment opportunities and clairvoyant or dating scams.

Scam mail is designed to look official and authentic, and uses well-known marketing techniques to be highly persuasive.

Prize draws, lottery wins and sweepstakes tend to use coats of arms, seals, serial numbers, barcodes, watermarks, mimeographed signatures and or rubber stampings.

Clairvoyant and psychic scams use fake photos of 'psychics', spiritual/religious imagery, symbolism, supernatural objects, astrology and occultism.

A new study of more than 30,000 UK victims of MMF shows each will lose an average of £6,744 in their lifetime. While older people tend to be the most prominent victims, research shows no-one is immune from falling for it - whatever your age, class, occupation, socio-economic background, race or gender.

Put simply, there's a MMF out there targeting someone just like you.

"Modern mass communications have transformed this into a global issue. But because many of these scams are based outside the UK, with money siphoned from victims straight into foreign bank accounts, it's harder for UK authorities to arrest and punish them," said Allyson Bartram, from the West Berkshire and Wokingham Trading Standards Service.

"But we can help people get free of it, or stop them being snared in the first place by raising awareness. We can all keep an eye out on friends and relatives."

The motivations vary why people fall for them, but they tend to have money issues or want to help their families, they live alone and are lonely, or they think it's worth the risk.

"It becomes a habit, a friend, and when they realise there's a problem they feel too embarrassed to admit it," said Allyson.

"Successful scams thrive on silence. But if you don't tell your family or friends you're a victim, then more people will fall prey. But there are lots of things we can do to help. Remember the old saying, 'if it looks too good to be true, it probably is'."


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