The Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Trading Standards teamed up last month to raise awareness about the hundreds of thousands of pieces of scam mail that plague UK residents. Scam mail is a real problem both for the consumers that receive it and the legitimate direct marketing industry. The mail typically attempts to hoodwink unwitting householders into sending money or their bank details to fraudsters. If someone responds their details are added to so-called scam lists and they can be deluged with similar mailings. For example Raymond Rose from Bristol receives around 500 scam letters every month. Up until the Citizen’s Advice Bureau contacted him he had been defrauded out of over £3,000 by sending cheques to cover admin fees for alleged lottery wins.

The issue for direct marketers is that many consumers can’t differentiate between scam mail and direct marketing. To them mail is mail and consequently DM’s reputation gets tarred by this brush. Royal Mail is doing its part by cancelling contracts with any proven scam mailers, but with deregulation scam mailers have more than one avenue to get into the postal system so reducing it is proving very difficult.

CAB and Trading Standards advice to direct marketers is very clear - exemplary targeting so that consumers can more easily draw a distinction between DM and scam mail. Many scam letters are addressed to ‘the home owner’ rather than to named individuals. The data is typically very poor meaning that the address can be misspelt or partial and it is never suppressed so it is often addressed to people that no longer live at an address or to people that have passed away. Duplications are also a common occurrence as scam mail is a volume game. To counter this direct mailers should ensure that their marketing data is as clean and accurate as possible. For responsible direct mailers this is not an issue as data hygiene reduces wastage, increases ROI and improves the reputation of the channel.