We've all had enticing letters arrive on our doorstep promising guaranteed lottery wins, fantastic investment opportunities, or a glimpse of the future through clairvoyants.

All you have to do is send them money, give personal details, or purchase items to take advantage.

However there is no lottery or prize to win, no investment and no glimpse of the future, just a fraudster taking your money.

If scammed once, the same person will often be repeatedly targeted by scammers around the world, duping them out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. So what can be done to stop them?

Royal Mail scam mail initiative

The Royal Mail and Trading Standards have launched a joint initiative to tackle scam mail by:

  • Creating new processes for cancelling the contracts of fraudulent companies, whereby companies identified by Trading Standards will be warned to stop their actions. If they ignore the warning and persist Royal Mail will cancel its contract

  • Extra training for postmen and women to improve awareness so they can report suspected scam mailings

  • Encouraging you to report fraudulent mail that you or your family have received

How do you report scam mail?

If you believe that you, or a relative, have been sent fraudulent mail you should report it to Royal Mail.

You can call them on 03456 113 413, email them at scam.mail@royalmail.com, or write to Royal Mail at Freepost Scam Mail.

You can also contact Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 03454 04 05 06, write to them at Citizens Advice consumer service, Post Point 24, Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston super Mare, North Somerset, BS23 1UJ, or you can complete an online form available from the
CAB website.

What can you do to stop scam mail?

It can be very easy to fall for a scam mailing. They can look very convincing, and often the potential reward seems so good that it's worth throwing the dice in the hope it's legitimate.

Here are some of the things you can do to avoid being caught out:

  • Never send cash, disclose personal information or buy items to claim a prize

  • If you receive what looks like scam mail bin it straight away and don't respond

  • Contact the Mailing Preference Service to have your name taken off direct mailing lists in the UK (unfortunately this won't stop overseas mail)

  • Put a 'no junk mail' sign on your door

How can you help an elderly relative?

The sad truth of postal scams is the more vulnerable a person, the more they will be targeted.

Scammers work off mailing lists that specifically highlight the elderly or vulnerable; often people who live alone with no internet access and without the knowledge or capability to report these scams.

If you're worried that someone close to you is being tricked or taken advantage of, here a few things you can do:

  • Look out for warning signs like unusual amounts of post, or large cash withdrawals

  • Offer advice and support - People are often embarrassed to admit they've been scammed so try to reassure them that it's a common problem, and that all sorts of people get taken in by them

  • Offer to have their post re-directed to you or another close relative so that scam mail can be filtered out

  • Get help - contact Citizens Advice or Age UK who will be able to help further. Take a look at the Age UK avoiding scams guide for more information.

Another helpful resource is the Think Jessica website; a registered charity that raises awareness of the dangers that postal scams can cause to the elderly and vulnerable. Read Jessica's story to understand just how damaging these scams can be, and the importance of getting help if you suspect a relative is being scammed.