Trading standards officers from Hertfordshire County Council led an investigation which prevented £500,000 getting into the hands of con artists.

Our staff worked with two Herts-based businesses and the National Trading Standards Scams Team to track down and close mailbox facilities used by companies from abroad involved in illegal scam mailings.

A large number of mailbags containing orders and cheques were seized from these mailboxes. The cheques are being returned to the consumers involved, along with advice on how to protect themselves against future mailings of this type. It is estimated that this has stopped nearly £500,000 going to the companies involved*.

We have also been busy offering support and advice to consumers during Scams Awareness Month in May, and have so far visited nearly 400 Hertfordshire consumers who may have been victims of scams including: 

  • prize draws promising wins of thousands of pounds
  • catalogues with goods at hugely inflated prices
  • lotteries from abroad
  • mailshots from clairvoyants

The work is being carried out as part of a national trading standards project investigating mass mailing and other cons.

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Consumers are targeted very carefully, often by companies based abroad. Once they respond, their details are sold on to other companies to exploit. This results in some people receiving up to 50 items of mail daily.

“Our trading standards officers have been removing sackloads of mail from some addresses to help consumers get their money back, and to help them get out of the cycle of sending money off to these scams.”

Louise Baxter, manager of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said it was working with a range of partners, including Trading Standards to tackle this problem.

She added: "We want to make it impossible for the scammers to operate here. This is an international crime affecting millions of people and we need to do something about it."

Trading Standards are asking consumers to look out for signs of their family or friends responding to these scams including: 

  • getting lots of mail every day
  • seeing envelopes promising huge winnings being kept
  • frequent trips to the post office to buy stamps and to post replies
  • going through chequebooks frequently
  • receiving lots of packages, often from abroad
  • seeing unusual vitamins/lotions/foods often labelled in French as well as English

If you are concerned about someone and would like some help please contact Hertfordshire Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506

Visit www.hertdirect.org/tradingstandards for further advice on current scams and how to avoid them.