Top tips for spotting direct mail scams

Common direct mail scams include:

  • Lotteries/prize draws. You may be told that you've won a large sum of money or a prize and asked to pay an administration fee. You might be asked for further payments or to call a premium rate number. A genuine lottery will not ask for a fee.
  • Psychics and clairvoyants may claim to have seen something in your future and ask for money to disclose what it is.
  • Pyramid schemes: Chain letters or selling schemes. You may be encouraged to send money, and either promised a reward, or threatened about what might happen if the chain is broken.
  • Miracle health cures and weight loss products: Many of these medicines have not been properly tested and could even be harmful. Consult a medical practitioner before you buy any medicinal products online in this way.
  • This scam can also apply to medicines sold online. To check whether an online pharmacy is legitimate, look for the 'Registered Pharmacy' logo on the home page - if you click on this it will lead to the General Pharmaceutical Council website.
  • Hard luck stories. The fraudster may claim to have lost all of their money in unfortunate circumstances or that they need money for an operation, and will ask you to transfer or send some.
  • Pension scams. You might be told by someone that they've found a loophole that will allow you to get hold of some of your pension income before retirement in exchange for a fee. While there are genuine schemes that let you access your pension over the age of 55, if you see something claiming you can get your cash before this age or that you can have more than 25 per cent of the pension value 'released', this is likely to be a scam.

What to do if you receive something that looks like a scam in the post:

  • If the mail is addressed to you, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority or report it to Action Fraud, either online or over the phone.

  • Register with the Mailing Preference Service, to have your name taken off most direct mailing lists. The service does not cover mail that is unaddressed, addressed to 'The Occupier' or originates from overseas.

  • Many direct mail scammers are based overseas, so they're unregulated and largely beyond the reach of UK authorities. If you receive a direct mail invitation of this kind, ignore it and throw it away. Never** reply to these letters. If you do, your details could be circulated to others running similar schemes and you could end up being bombarded with scam mail.

  • When you register to vote, tick the box to opt out of the 'edited register' as this can be used to send unsolicited marketing mail.

  • If you buy a product online, you will usually be asked if you want to receive direct mail or marketing emails from the company - make sure you tick or untick the right box if you don't want them to contact you.

Useful contact details:

Advertising Standards Agency - Independent regulator of advertising across all UK media. It works to ensure that adverts are legal, decent, honest and truthful.

Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6QT

Tel: 020 7492 2222 ; Textphone: 020 7242 8159

www.asa.org.uk

Action Fraud - National helpline that gives advice on preventing fraud and what to do if you fall victim to it. You can also fill in a form online to report fraud.

Tel: 0300 123 2040 ; Textphone: 0300 123 2050

www.actionfraud.police.uk

Mailing Preference Service -

DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SS

Tel: 0845 703 4599 (MPS registration line)

Email: mps@dma.org.uk

www.mpsonline.org.uk

SOURCE: AGE UK www.ageuk.org.uk