TWELVE residents from South Gloucestershire have had money returned to them as a result of a crackdown on mail scams.

The action is part of an initiative launched by the National Trading Standards Scams Team and Royal Mail to return seized responses to mail scams before the money reaches the hands of the scammers.

The initiative is supported by Trading Standards, and officers have so far visited 12 residents to inform them they have been a victim of a scam in areas including Yate, Thornbury, Severn Beach, and Almondsbury.

So far more than 6,000 items of mail have been returned as part of the national operation in the UK and more than £108,000 has been returned to victims. In South Gloucestershire over £100 has been returned.

An additional 4,000 replies to suspected scam mails are currently being assessed with a view to returning the money to unsuspecting victims across the country.

Cllr Claire Young, chair of South Gloucestershire Council’s Communities Committee, said: “We welcome this initiative as mailing scams are notorious for targeting elderly and vulnerable people who are less likely to realise that the mail is not genuine.

“The most common include letters which claim the resident has won a foreign lottery or prize draw.

“We also see scams where a resident receives a letter from a clairvoyant suggesting good or bad news is on the way and they are encouraged to buy a reading or talisman to protect themselves from the bad news, or encourage good to happen. These can be quite intimidating and threatening, especially for more vulnerable people.

“Our Trading Standards officers have been visiting victims with a letter informing them about the fraudulent activity in the hope that this will deter people from responding to any future scams.”

Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said: "It is often very difficult to persuade vulnerable, often elderly, individuals that letters telling them they have won large sums of money are scams.

“The fact that we are able to directly contact them with the money they sent, along with very clear advice, should really help to break the cycle in so many cases.

“Every cheque or money returned is another person helped and another blow to the criminals, so I'm delighted with the progress made so far and we look forward to continuing this important work."

It is estimated that prize draw scams cost the UK public £60 million per year, with an estimated 380,000 members of the public falling victim each year.

Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of prize draw scams, or thinks someone they know may have been, should get in touch with Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.