Fraudsters will find any means to target unsuspecting victims, including offering tempting prizes that will see people lose money rather than gain any reward.
These are typically postal scams – although sometimes victims are told they’ve won a prize over the phone. Their risk was underlined by the case of an 84-year-old dementia sufferer who was bombarded by letters claiming he had won prizes last year.
The elderly man spent thousands of pounds on unwanted goods after receiving bogus letters, many of which were offering winnings in a prize draw.
Some said he had won a lump sum, provided he sent in an administration fee.
The man’s family only became aware of the problem when they found piles of scam letters in his home.
Plagued by nuisance callers? Read our tips.
What to watch out for
Letters can come from anywhere, from random prizes from draws you’ve never entered, to con artists promising wealth – for a fee.
These may try and tempt you with anything from discount medications to the latest miracle cream. The only catch is you have to call a number to claim winnings, or you have to give bank details to receive the promised items. If you respond – even if only once – you risk even more junk mail arriving.
Alternatively, there could be expensive terms and conditions hidden in the small print. For example, you may be told you’ve won a holiday but have to pay for pricey flights through the firm in the terms and conditions. Or you may be asked to attend a ‘meeting’ and have to cover the holiday cost if you fail to attend.
Don't get caught out by phone scammers.
Tips to avoid falling victim
- If you didn’t enter it, it is probably a scam. Be on your guard against junk mail claiming to offer prizes.
- If you’re unsure, ask a relative to check it out for you. Or you could contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 to ask their advice.
- Don’t pay money to get your prize. Any competitions you entered that offer a genuine payout won’t ask you for a fee to claim your prize.
- Trust your instincts. If you reckon it could be a scam, it probably is. Although remember that fraudsters are getting ever more sophisticated, and coming up with more elaborate means of parting you with your cash. If something doesn’t seem right, take additional steps to check it out.
- Beware of premium rate claim lines. These usually operate on numbers beginning with 09, 118, 0871/2/3.
If you encounter any of the above scams you should report them to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
For more tips to keep yourself safe, browse our consumer rights articles.