Working with Royal Mail and Spring Global Mail, police asked 11 victims to collect their post over a four-week period, before they used a postage paid impression (PPI) to track the mail back to its original source.
The Met was then alerted when the next shipment of post bearing this PPI arrived in the UK. Detectives visited a UK sorting office where they seized the freight and impounded it. At the same time, five return addresses or ‘virtual offices’ in London identified as part of the scam process were shut down and searched for criminal evidence. These addresses are privately rented mail boxes.
Police estimate that more than £3.5bn is scammed from Brits each year, with £2.4bn of this as a result of mail correspondence.
Late last year, BBC One’s Inside Out show exposed how rogue overseas firms were offering UK companies lists of prize-draw “suckers”, containing details of consumers who are “addicted” to paying to enter lotteries, in a major breach of UK data laws. Inside Out managed to get hold of a “suckers” list from a Canadian firm; it contained more than 300,000 names of UK consumers.
Gary Simpson, international director, Royal Mail, said: “We don’t want any of our postmen or women handling or delivering mail that causes harm or is criminal in intent. Royal Mail is working hard with the police to clamp down on this type of distressing activity.”
Detective superintendent Mark Ponting, head of prevention and disruption for the Met’s Economic and Specialist Crime Command, said: “The individuals behind this type of crime are cynical and pernicious, making their living by targeting and exploiting some of the most vulnerable and needy people in our society.
“For many of these victims, the bombardment of scam mail results in fear, severe financial difficulties and ultimately a decline in both physical and mental health. In at least five cases in the UK, it has ended in suicide.
“We hope that today’s action, and the action that we will take in the future, will raise awareness of this crime amongst all sectors of society and prevent more people from falling victim to it.”
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