Postal & Phone Scams


Never a week goes by without the press reporting on yet another scam occurring.

Scams are frauds and tricks designed to cheat people out of their money, either directly or by gathering sufficient information that they can assume their identity to access money in their name.

Identity Fraud involves the misuse of an individual’s personal details in order to commit crime. These personal details are very valuable and can be misused or sold on to others with many victims never establishing exactly how their details were obtained.

Scammers approach people in different ways; at home, by post, by phone, by e-mail or on-line.

They will use every trick in the book to get you to part with your cash including:
- You have won a lottery, sweepstake, competition or someone has left you an inheritance
- There is a “secret” deal or investment which will make you rich
- Asking for donations to a fictitious charity
- Offering products at special low prices “just for you”
- Claiming to be a Debt Recovery Agency and threaten court action if a BOGUS overdue utility bill isn’t paid within 7 days.

… but in each case you will have to send money and as this will possibly be by cheque or bank transfer, that additionally provides them with your bank account details.

Scammers can also send authentic looking scam mail from Banks and Building Societies asking for personal information and/or cash. It’s more prolific via email, but is still being sent out via the post.

Recently they have claimed to be the police investigating a bank fraud and telling you to transfer your money quickly to a specified bank account or to pass your debit/credit card to a courier. Banks or the police will never ask for your PIN, your bank card or to transfer money in this way.

Estimates indicate that nearly half of people in the UK have been targeted by a scam and the number of scams has increased by over 50% in the last year alone (mainly on-line).

However here are some guidelines and hints that can help you avoid being caught out:
- Never send money to anyone you do not know or trust or use methods of payment that you are not comfortable with.
- Never give banking or personal details to anyone you do not know or trust. This information is valuable so make sure you protect it.
- Never share your PIN with anyone. The only time you should use your PIN is at a cash machine or when you use a shop’s Chip and PIN machine.
- Never hand your bank card or any goods you have purchased as a result of a phone call to anyone who comes to your front door.
- Always log on to a website directly rather than clicking on links provided in an email as these may take you to a website other than that indicated or download malware or spyware.
- If you receive something that looks like scam mail or phone calls, talk about it to someone you trust such as a friend or family member, or call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65.
- Do not respond to these approaches, even to try to get them stopped, as this just confirms they have reached a valid address or phone number and keeps you on lists to try again in the future.
- When registering to vote at your current address (the electoral roll), tick the box to opt out of the ‘Edited’ register otherwise these details are available for others to use such as marketing.

Junk mail is unsolicited mail advertising products and services and cold calls are phone calls from companies trying to make a sale even though they have had no business with you previously. They can be annoying but aren’t usually illegal. However, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between these and a scam.

You can sign up for free with the Mail Preference Service to have your name and home address in the UK removed from direct mailing lists used by the industry. Marketing mail should reduce over the following 4 months but this does not prevent unaddressed mail or that from overseas.
To register Tel: 0207 2913300 or Web:

You can sign up for free to the official Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to register not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to the numbers registered unless they have your consent to do so. To register Tel: 0800 398893 or Web:

The above points are just some of the advice obtained from a booklet issued by the Metropolitan Police and a similar guide from Age UK. Both can be obtained online by clicking the links on the Cottingham U3A News page ( and then selecting “News” in the heading).

The Age UK booklet “Avoiding Scams” can also be obtained by ringing 0800 169 6565.

Click to return to the News page.