COMMENT: The darker side of the junk mail business

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THE piles of junk mail that clog up our letterboxes are a real bugbear for many of us.

But while countless leaflets about new takeaways, competitions to enter and end of season sales can be irritating and a bit of a hassle, there is a darker side to the whole business. Some of the mail that drops through our doors is simply sinister.

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The con artists that prey on us through the post have plenty of tricks up their sleeve. Some are growing more familiar such as the lottery scams that want your bank details or an admin fee in order to unlock the riches you have won. Others are novel and ingenious.

Often they prey on the goodwill of the people that they target by appealing to their better nature or are deliberately targeted at people who are at their lowest ebb, perhaps grieving for a loved one.

The thing about these tricks is that they are all clever and plausible until we become familiar with them. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be the multi-million pound business that encourages criminals to devote so much 
energy to it.

There are lots of things that we can do to protect ourselves from falling victim. The simplest advice is to call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 if you have any suspicions about the mail you are receiving.

You can cut down on the amount of general junk mail you receive too. Simply popping unwanted mail back in the post marked “unsolicited mail, return to sender” will land whoever sent it with a bill for the return post, which can be enough of an incentive for firms to take you off their mailing list.

You can also register with the Mail Preference Service and sign up to the Royal Mail’s door to door opt out service.

The city’s mail marshalls initiative is an excellent example for anyone who is worried about their mail to gain reassurance and help others stay safe at the same time.