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Clamping down on junk mail

This article was first published on: 11 September 2013

Junk mail image

Trading standards officers in East Renfrewshire are helping local residents to take action to stop the deluge of junk mail landing on their doorsteps.

Scam mail is now a serious and endemic problem which is causing financial and mental devastation to millions of silent victims of fraud.

It is estimated that seven out of 10 older people in the UK are targeted by scams every month either by telephone or letter.

A local resident recently reported that a relative had been targeted over a two year period by scam mail. The victim has paid out thousands of pounds for worthless lottery scams, dubious health products and junk jewellery.

The size of the losses and quantity of junk mail was discovered after a concerned postal worker tipped off a relative.

The victim's brother then contacted trading standards and passed over thousands of catalogued junk mail letters from all over the world.

Local trading standards officers have gathered the evidence and are assisting relatives to put measures in place to stop the deluge of mail and install call blocking equipment to prevent nuisance telephone calls.

Paul Holland, senior trading standards officer with East Renfrewshire Council, said: "This is a tragic case which exposes the cruelty and consequence of junk mail fraud. It's a worldwide scam which is estimated to make criminals £3.5 billion annually.

"The victim often becomes immersed in the delusional world the criminals create and responding to the scam can become like an addiction. It's obviously difficult to control as mail is piling in from all over the world.

The junk mail is being handed over to the newly established Trading Standards Scotland Section for intelligence gathering and investigation purposes. The Trading Standards Scotland team provides a valuable national link to support local enforcement and prevention priorities.

Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer with Trading Standards Scotland said "We will use the junk mail that has been gathered to strengthen the intelligence picture on the perpetrators of this insidious crime. Not only will this allow us to target investigatory resources but will also inform prevention work that aims to stop consumers falling victim to this type of crime." COLSA, who host Trading Standards Scotland currently chair a nationwide working group on Mass Marketing Scams.

Environment convener Councillor Vincent Waters said: "I would urge residents to follow trading standards' tips to reduce and avoid junk mail. It's particularly important to look out for our most vulnerable residents and put measures in place to stop them being cold called by criminals via mail, telephone calls and doorstep visits.

  • East Renfrewshire Trading Standards have a host of information on avoiding scams on the Trading Standards section of the council website.
  • Register free with the Mail Preference service on 0845 703 4599 or online at the Mailing Preference Service Mailing Preference Service website.
  • Royal Mail has an opt out scheme for certain types of promotional mailings. Opt out on 01865 796964 - or opt out at the royal mail Royal Mail website.
  • Report all items of scam mail to the Royal Mail by sending the items with a covering letter to Scam Mail, PO Box 797, Exeter, EX1 9UN or email on or by calling 08456 113 413
  • If you have the correct authority get the mail redirected from the victim to a carer/relative.
  • Scams can be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
  • Consumer Advice is available from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0845 040506
  • General information on junk mail and its affects on vulnerable adults is available from the "Think Jessica Campaign" website.

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