ELDERLY people in Levenmouth and the East Neuk are being warned to be on their guard against a Christmas food mail scam that offers a cash prize.
Over the last week, official-looking letters have been delivered to locals – it is believed that older people in particular are being targeted – which say they have won a ‘guaranteed’ prize of £7700 and a large flat-screen television and recipients being urged to reply quickly so that their prizes can be dispatched.
However, it is only when you plough through the material, from a company called Delice & Gourmandises, that you discover the reply requires to be in the form of an order for food or sweets.
Meanwhile, the confusing terms and conditions in the small print explain that far from guaranteed, it is a prize draw.
The Mail knows at least three local people - all in their 80s - who received the letters, one of whom was taken in by the offer and sent off a cheque.
One Leven reader, who asked not to be named, was immediately suspicious and contacted the Mail.
“It all looks very real – my name was used throughout, including on special stickers that I was supposed to use so that the prize could be sent to me – but I thought it was strange that I was meant to have won something I hadn’t even entered,” she said.
“I had my wits about me to get to the bottom of it but there are other vulnerable people out there who could very easily be taken in and really believe they have won what is a considerable amount of money.”
Another local was not quite so lucky and put an order in for the expensive food, fully expecting to receive the prize.
A third reader was initially intrigued by the offer but was advised by his family to ignore it and put it all in the bin.
Preliminary inquiries by Fife’s trading standards department revealed that this particular junk mail scheme is not new and appeared to be directed deliberately at the elderly, most likely with the company buying in a targeted mailing list.
“If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is,” said Geoff Bates, team leader – consumer and business education.
His team are now looking into the Delice & Gourmandise mail-out and, if necessary, will be liaising with their counterparts in Belgium and France.
While the marketing material might not technically be breaking any laws, Geoff urged people to be wary of offers like these.
“Ask yourself first if it is something you would normally buy or want and if it is, shop around first to make sure it is good value,” Mr Bates said.
“Be extremely wary about giving any bank details and if you suspect that you are being scammed, there’s a consumer hotline to call that will pass the details on to trading standards in Fife.”
The Consumer Direct number is 08454 040506.