Trading Standards Information and Advice: Scam mail – County says: “turn them in and turn the tide”

People in East Sussex are again being asked to help stop scam mail with a message from the County Council – “turn them in and turn the tide.”

The message is part of the County Council’s fourth ‘Scamnesty’ campaign, run by its Trading Standards team. Residents and businesses are being urged to hand in any scam mail they receive to their local library during February 2011.

Misleading mailings make false promises of huge bogus lottery wins or other high value prizes, but they always insist on payment to the sender before any winnings can be claimed.

Targets of these scams – often the elderly or vulnerable - can find themselves on the receiving end of wave after wave of letters, with some being sent up to 600 misleading letters a month from across the world. Those that fall victim to the mailings can send off hundreds of pounds a month over many years and despite the riches promised in each letter, they never win a penny.

Councillor Bob Tidy, Lead Member for Community Services, said: “These scam mailings are an absolute menace and our message is turn them in and turn the tide. The mailings we receive in this year’s ‘scamnesty’ will again be analysed and the information shared with partner enforcement agencies in the UK and abroad. This will help us to build a picture of what is going on and crackdown on the senders and their networks.

“The response so far from people in East Sussex to these campaigns has been marvellous and is producing positive results as well as raising the profile of this often silent crime.

“If you have a friend or relative that you think is responding to these letters, our Trading Standards officers can be contacted and can offer to visit to offer advice and assistance. If you want to hand in any suspicious letters you can do so at any County Council Library in East Sussex throughout February”.

In previous years, the County Council’s scamnesty campaigns have led to members of the public handing in over 7,000 letters, resulting in:

Since 2008: Dozens of individuals and their families in East Sussex being offered assistance and advice by personal visit or phone call from Trading Standards officers.

October 2009: Following a single letter of complaint from an Uckfield resident concerning a UK based mailing company, East Sussex Trading Standards took Court action to stop the company, which had sent out 130,000 misleading mailings to UK residents in 2008 and generated over 850 complaints to Trading Standards nationally.

November 2010: £80,000 of cash sent by scam victims was seized by the Metropolitan Police with the help of a witness statement from an Eastbourne resident whose own cheque payment had been amongst those intercepted en-route to the foreign scammers.

January 2011: Warrants were executed by the Metropolitan Police at five London “virtual office” addresses and scam mail was intercepted at a large UK mail sorting office in a major crackdown on mail scammers. The targets were identified with the assistance of intelligence gained from scam victims in Eastbourne and Hastings.

For further information or advice contact Consumer Direct on 08456 04 05 06.

For more general information about the work of Trading Standards please visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/consumeradvice.