News item

Seized scam mail identifies a huge number of victims

West Yorkshire trading standards service has seized over 4,000 pieces of mail from a West Yorkshire based mailing box. Trading standards officers were alerted to the mail when the owner of the business centre, whose services involve the provision of mailboxes, raised his concerns that he thought the mail might be a prize draw scam. 

Following the mail seizure trading standards officers are working in conjunction with the National Trading Standards Scams Team to return cash to consumers who had paid money to the scam.

The National Trading Standards Scams Team was set up to tackle scam mail, and common scams include: prize draw scams, lottery scams, charity scams, land banking scams, and investment scams.

Since the National scams team was set up:-

 

  • The total detriment reported to the team is £11,014,574
  • The average mailing scam victim is aged 73.8 years old
  • The average detriment per person reported is £1063
  • They have saved scam victims over £2,147,079
  • A saving of £207.27 per victim
  • The number of confirmed victims to the team is 10,359

 

The mail seized by West Yorkshire trading standards service identified over 3,600 scam victims. There was £3,233 cash inside the envelopes, as well as bank details that had been given over to the scammers in order to pay for fictitious admin fees to release winnings that will not materialise. Luckily the mail was intercepted before it reached the scammers.

The National Scams Team is now in the process of returning the monies to victims with the assistance of local trading standards departments across the country.  In West Yorkshire alone, since being involved in the project, officers have received a list of over 4,500 victims’ names who are known to be responding to scam mail. In September 2014 officers from West Yorkshire began making contact with the county’s residents on a “suckers list” believed to be used by scammers to target their victims with mass marketing scams. 

 

  • The total financial detriment to these West Yorkshire individuals (where known or able to be estimated) currently stands at £561,911.70.    
  • The average age of West Yorkshire victims is 82

 

Initial contact has so far resulted in 31 chronic, repeat victims of financial abuse being identified. Two consumers have been identified as candidates for call blocking units and four have been referred on to other agencies including Adult Social Care, Safeguarding, the Fire Service and West Yorkshire Police Economic Crime Unit.

Where appropriate, victims are encouraged to engage with the SAFER (Scams & Fraud Education for Residents) Project, where they are invited to attend workshops and share their experience, whilst interacting socially with other older residents in their local community. Residents are offered practical advice and are provided with a range of tools which will help them stay safe and live independently for longer.

In partnership with the National Scams Team and Royal Mail, the SAFER team has also delivered briefings to postal workers to raise awareness of the impact scam mail has on recipients. Following the briefing, delivery officers were invited to refer suspected victims on their route, resulting in a number of names and addresses being submitted to the internal security team at Royal Mail.  With the resident’s permission, the security team then work with the National Trading Standards Scams Team to offer further support and advice.

Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee said: “Evidently the scale of this problem is huge. The mail collected via the National Scams Team is just the tip of the iceberg as we know that many residents don’t come forward and tell us about the problems they are facing. This could be due to embarrassment, fear of repercussions or simply because they don’t realise that they are being targeted.”

David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “We are very pleased with the efforts of the West Yorkshire business centre to notify the Service of this scam.  We are aware that many victims who respond to scams often will not tell family, friends or neighbours. It can be very difficult to persuade someone who is responding to junk mail on a regular basis that it is not genuine and that the prizes and lotteries do not exist. This initiative aims to bring about change for the communities and individuals most affected through a joined up approach to supporting victims and tackling offenders.”

Residents 55+ are also encouraged to book onto one of the free SAFER community workshops which are regularly taking place. Any community groups and individuals are urged to book their place early to avoid disappointment.

Contact details for the SAFER Project are as follows:

Telephone: 0113 393 9910, Email: safer@wyjs.org.uk 

West Yorkshire residents who are concerned about scam mail for themselves or a friend or relative can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

Notes to editor:

For further information please contact Carolyne Dollins, West Yorkshire Trading Standards, Special Investigations Team Leader, 0113 3939875, cdollins@wyjs.org.uk 

DATE: 20 May 2015