Public urged to help fight mail scams

  • World Cup lottery and clairvoyant scams expected to feature highly in new ‘Scamnesty’  

From today, the public are being urged to send their scam mail to the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team, to help investigators create a snapshot of current postal scams and build intelligence about the criminals behind them.

Running until 23 December, this year’s mail ‘Scamnesty’ is expected to uncover a rise in World Cup lottery scams claiming to be affiliated with the event, complete with official logos, asking recipients for money to claim their ‘huge’ cash prize. This follows similar scams during previous tournaments.

Scamnesty scam mail

So far in 2022, more than 80% of scam mail routinely sent in to the NTS Scams Team is clairvoyant scams, where people are promised more detailed readings if they send money. The organised criminal groups behind mail scams are constantly changing their tactics and it is hoped this year’s Scamnesty will uncover previously unknown scam types. Inheritance scam mail – where bogus overseas lawyers entice victims to claim their share of a non-existent fortune – came to light during the first Scamnesty in 2020.

Other postal scams regularly seen include fake overseas lotteries or prize draws, bogus health cures and investment scams. All are created with one goal – to prey on situationally vulnerable people and trick them into sending money. The average amount requested this year is £48, usually in cash, but if people respond, they can get repeatedly targeted and many victims lose thousands of pounds.

With elderly and vulnerable people more likely to receive scam mail, people are also being urged to chat to older relatives and friends about Scamnesty. Not only will their scam mail help in the fight against the criminals, but just having the conversation could prevent many from being tempted to respond. Professional carers are also encouraged to check-in with their clients, letting them know about the campaign and perhaps helping them to post their scam mail.

Scam mail can be sent free of charge to: NTSST, FREEPOST, MAIL MARSHALS.

Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“We have regular flow of mail coming in from our Scam Marshals, but we need the boost that a campaign like this can bring. By building a fuller picture of the scams out there we can stay a step ahead of the criminals.

“And as well as sending in their own scam mail, I’d encourage people to talk about Scamnesty with older friends and relatives. They are likely to be at the sharp end of the mailings so the intelligence they can provide is crucial. Not only that, but hopefully by raising awareness we can prevent more people from being manipulated by these very convincing, organised criminals.”

Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“The impact on victims who get lured into responding to scam mail is truly devastating. Once they send money to one, more and more mailings land on the doorstep and a terrifying cycle can begin, leading not only to crippling financial loss, but declining physical and mental health. This crime can destroy families as repeat victims often isolate themselves from those trying to help. Please, send in your scam mail so we can protect your loved ones, and stop the harm these criminals cause.”

John Herriman, Chief Executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), said:

“Trading Standards professionals witness the devastating effects of scam mail day in and day out. The criminals behind these letters prey on the most vulnerable in our society, and at this time of year those that feel isolated and lonely are more inclined to respond to scam mail arriving out of the blue.

“Our lead officers have witnessed horrific cases whereby victims have lost over £100,000 to scam mail, it’s a terrible cycle that some find it hard to get out of as the scammers often befriend their victims to build a level of trust.

“Raising awareness is key and CTSI fully supports this fantastic initiative and we encourage our members to take part in ‘Scamnesty’ to help stop these crooks in their tracks.”

How to spot scam mail

Criminals use a wide range of measures to create an illusion of legitimacy and give people false hope of a big payout or a better life. Scam mail often includes a competition question to hook recipients into the scam. Some of the tricks used include:

  • Personalising mail using the recipient’s name throughout as well as on images such as certificates and cheques
  • Artwork that purports to be genuine, for instance the use of a seal or crest and fonts that suggest they come from a financial institution or official body
  • Words like’ guaranteed’ or ‘100% genuine’ as well as precise amounts of money
  • Signatures from officials with senior ranking titles and identification numbers
  • A sense of urgency, such as ‘reply within seven days’ or ‘before the deadline’

So far this year, the NTS Scams Team has returned more than £65,000 to consumers who had paid money to criminals; supported trading standards officers to save victims more than £950,000 through interventions via home visits; and saved the taxpayer nearly £23million overall by disrupting the work of the phone and mail scam criminals.

More information about this year’s Scamnesty, as well as advice and information on how to spot scams, is available at, a website run by the NTS Scams Team that has given over a million people to date the skills and confidence to stand up to scams.

The National Trading Standards Scams Team needs more Scam Marshals, who send in their mail on a monthly basis. Find out more at