Postal workers could be allowed to examine customer’s letters before they are delivered through the letterbox.

Jo Swinson – the Consumer Affairs Minister – said she would consider the case for an “opt-in” system, in which householders could choose to allow their letters to be looked at.

The minister urged the public to be alert to the millions of bogus offers sent through the post by “cruel fraudsters.”

  • More than three million people a year are victims of scams through the post, such as fake holiday clubs, lotteries, bogus lawyers and even letters threatening curses if money is not paid
  • And mail scams cost individuals a total of £3.5 billion each year, according to government figures

The elderly are often most severely affected, typically losing £1,200 each … twice as much as younger groups.

Ms Swinson indicated that the government would consider steps to tackle the fraud.  She said: “The victims of such scams are people who should not be conned out of their money.”

Legislation should only be considered as a “last resort”, the minister said, dismissing calls to force postal workers to “intercept and open the mail.”

However, she indicated that she was prepared to consider introducing a new voluntary service through which customers could ask for postal staff to help them detect scam mail by examining letters before they are delivered.

Ms Swinson said Royal Mail was already working with the police and border guards to identify scam mail fraudsters and had the power to cancel mass mailing contracts linked to fraud.

“One idea was that postal workers could have an information leaflet to give out, which would be less intrusive than a power to open mail,” she said.