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Mail order shopping scams: have you been targeted?

Scammers are notorious for finding and preying on the more vulnerable members of society, including those in later life.

They are convincing liars who use every trick in the book to make their scams sound plausible. They are ruthless and don’t care who they hurt along the way.

That’s why keeping the consumer up to date with new and common scams – as well as taking action against the perpetrators of scams – is very important to us.

On our Safeguard us from scams campaign page, you can sign up to force action on scams. You can also find the most common reported scams in your area.

On the Consumer Rights website, there’s a whole raft of information on the subject, from how to get your money back after a scam to reporting and spotting a scam.

And here on Which? Conversation, we’re constantly updating our community on new scams and how to avoid being caught up in scams.

Mail order scams

A Which? member recently got in touch with us about her experience after receiving a catalogue from a mail order company through the post.

They purported to sell goods aimed at older people to help them continue living independently at home.

She ordered several items from them and sent a cheque, which has been cashed. But nothing has been delivered and she can’t get hold of them. Their premium rate phone number is charged at 13p per minute.

Online reviews show that she is by no means alone. One reviewer claims that she was sent a letter by the company that includes phrases like ‘authorised cash award payment’, ‘this is very important’, ‘guaranteed share of £20,000’.

Dodgy catalogues

Another online reviewer believes that his address has been sold by the company on to other unscrupulous companies, because he is now receiving other pieces of unwanted literature and he can’t make them stop.

Digging into the company a little further, we found the director was also a director of several other mail order companies.

One unhappy reviewer of a sister company said it took him 6 months to receive a refund on a later life care product he ordered but never received.

And the Advertising Standards Authority has previously reprimanded the company for bombarding customers with junk mail.

We’re looking further into this group of companies and hope to be able to report back to you with further details soon.

Our advice

A bona fide mail order company won’t be trying to lure you in with false claims of prizes and large amounts of cash to be won.

If you receive a catalogue through the post with tempting products, it always pays to do some online research using the catalogue name to see what other people’s experiences are. Yell.com, for example, is a good place to start.

If you are concerned about receiving unwanted junk mail, read the Consumer Rights website’s information about how to stop unwanted junk mail.

On Which? Later Life Care, we give advice about other postal scams, things to watch out for and what to do if you’re caught out by a postal scam.

These aren’t the only types of scams aimed at older people – scammers find their way in through the phone, online and on the doorstep.

Have you been scammed by fake mail order fraudsters? Or been scammed in another way? Please share your story in the comments.