Scam and Fraudulent Mail

October 2016


Scam and Fraudulent Mail

Scam mail is a terrible abuse of the postal system and it is unacceptable how vulnerable people are targeted by these scammers. Scamming is also not isolated to mail but is frequently carried out using other methods of communications such as email, text and through social media channels.


Whistl has contractual agreements with its customers under which we expect them to produce mail items which comply with the law and are appropriate to the recipient. However, we have no authority under the 2000 Postal Services Act, to see the actual contents of the mail items.  The only people who can view that mail are the sender, the printer, mailing house and the recipient.  


When we have been advised about scam mail we have taken action to terminate the relevant contract with that organisation, but we acknowledge as an industry we need to do more.  


The postal industry faces a big challenge in keeping up to date on the ways that scam mailers use to get their mail into the UK.   It is the originator of the scam and unscrupulous printing, mailing/fulfilment houses that will be privy to the contents who can make the biggest difference in stopping scam mail.


We are looking at ways to create an industry wide Scam Mailing Stop List, based upon the current Royal Mail list which is shared with Trading Standards.  We want all postal operators to share and add to this list and that it is circulated to all UK and International printers, mailing houses and carriers as a step forward to stamp out this issue.

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Further background information:
The Postal Services Act 2000 makes it an offence to open postal items to look at the contents of every single mail item. Such action would be a clear infringement of the privacy and confidentiality of communications. The only element of the mail piece we can consider is the envelope and whether the item adheres to the guidelines provided by Royal Mail to ensure that it can be processed through the Royal Mail system.   


The only times we have authority to open a letter are (i) to return unidentified mail items to their senders (where those items have been returned by Royal Mail), (ii) where we have evidence that there is a prohibited item (such as batteries) and (iii) under an authorisation warrant from an enforcement agency. The postal industry as a whole is working together to find a way to eradicate the abuse of the postal system through these practices and the matter is discussed regularly – both directly with Royal Mail and through industry bodies, such as the Mail Competition Forum.


The industry faces a big challenge in keeping up to date on the routes that scam mailers use to get their mail into the UK. We contract with reputable international postal operators who collect the mail from the sender and then contract us to process the mail in the UK and pass on to Royal Mail for final delivery.  

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