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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 15:38 GMT
Thousands recovered in scam mail
Junk mail
UK residents lose 320m every year by responding to mailing scams
Letters containing thousands of pounds destined for Canada as part of a mailing scam have been discovered in a mail box in Stirling.

In an operation led by Stirling Council Trading Standards officers, between 600 and 1,000 letters, each containing about 20 were found.

The cash was sent from people all over the UK, duped into entering a competition to win up to 1.28m.

Stirling Council said the money is now in the process of being returned.

More than 500,000 people in the UK are thought to be seduced by similar scams every year, losing more than 320m.

Our prompt action in this case will have saved British consumers thousands of pounds
Brian Wilson
Trading Standards

In many cases the same victims are targeted repeatedly by the scammers.

The Stirling mail box was the sole address in the UK for people to enter the competition.

Trading standards officers found consumers were sending 20 to the mailbox in an effort to increase their sweepstake or "winnings" from 821,000 to 1,258,000.

Investigations by police revealed the letters were being sent to another mail box in Vancouver in Canada.

Bogus lottery, prize draw and sweepstakes, are sent out by mail, e-mail or telephone in their hundreds of thousands and inform consumers that they have won a major cash prize.

To claim a prize, consumers are asked to send money upfront to cover administration, processing fees, taxes or to increase their "winnings".

Major prize

In many cases the cash prizes either do not exist or the recipient only has a tiny chance of winning the promised pay-out.

Trading Standards officer Brian Wilson said genuine sweepstakes, prize draws or lotteries would never ask consumers to pay a fee to claim a major prize.

He said: "Always stop, think and think again if an offer sounds too good to be true."

"We all dream of winning a big money prize draw or lottery and scammers exploit that to their advantage.

"The cost to consumers of these scams is huge. Our prompt action in this case will have saved British consumers thousands of pounds."

The initiative is part of a regional campaign led by the local authority to crackdown on the perpetrators of scam mail.

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