#ScamAware: Friends Against Mail Scams

Earlier this month the City of Edinburgh Council made a pledge to be an Organisation Against Scams.

As part of the wider Friends Against Scams campaign we are working to change perceptions and raise awareness of scams amongst staff and the wider community.

Scams take many forms, and they change frequently.  They are designed to part victims from their money or personal details.  They can be very subtle, but this is organised crime.

Here, in the first of a series of articles looking at different kinds of scams, we’re highlighting mail scams - what you should look out for and how you can help others.

What is a mail scam?

Mail scams work by targeting individuals with official-looking documents and promises of lottery wins, psychic messages or health claims, asking for either a small order to be placed or an administration fee to be paid to release the money. Once someone has responded, their details are shared which results in them being bombarded with huge amounts of mail.

Top 5 tips to take a stand against mail scams

1.  Never send money to a company in order to claim a prize or winnings.

2. Watch out for letters with too good to be true offers, it’s probably a scam.

3. Don’t disclose personal information to people or companies you do not know.

4. If you get a lot of mail get a trusted friend or family member to help you sort through it.

5. If you think the letter is a scam report it!

Become a mail marshal

A Mail Marshal is any resident in the UK who receives scam mail, but wants to put it to good use.

Mail marshals collect the letters they receive and send it to the Council's Trading Standards team, who then pass it on to the national TS team for further scrutiny. Around 27% of the UK's mail marshals are based in Edinburgh.

You could join the growing team of volunteers who are helping to fight fraudsters - 127 pieces of scam mail were sent to our Trading Standards team in January alone.    

Community Safety leader Councillor Joan Griffiths said: “Everyday many people respond to mail scams. So I urge everyone not to believe the false promises and protect yourself and those around you.  Scams can be very clever in their presentation, and can take a variety of forms.

“Of course you may be well aware and wise to scam mail but what about your loved ones, friends or neighbours?  Together with Friends Against Scams we are trying to encourage conversations with the people in your lives who may not be aware that they are being duped.  By normalising the conversation and sharing our stories we can nip these scams in the bud.

“People often feel embarrassed that it's happened to them, but please be assured that it can happen to anyone, of any age or circumstance.  In sharing information, together we can understand scams, talk about scams and cascade messages throughout our communities about scams prevention and protection.”

Anyone who suspects they or someone they know have been the victim of a scam should contact Edinburgh's Trading Standards team on 0131 529 3030 for more information. There is some further information on scams and becoming a friend against scams at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/beatscams.

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