What are Scam Letters?

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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: Roberto Lunerti, See-Ming Lee
  • Last Modified Date: 12 March 2020
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Scam letters are often sent to unsuspecting victims for the purpose of tricking them. The goal of the swindler usually is to entice people to send cash or reveal personal information. Criminals frequently use attractive lures to encourage others to give them what they want. In some cases, the recipient of a letter is promised a substantial prize. Other times, scam letters promise to lend money in exchange for a fee to be paid in advance.

When people are duped by scam letters, they often end up providing criminals with information that is later used to steal identities and access bank account information. Some scammers, however, encourage their victims to send money in order to receive a valuable prize, when in fact, the victim receives little or nothing in return. The methods of trickery used by these con artists may vary, but the goal is usually similar. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for people to recover their losses after being ripped-off.

Scammers are crafty. They usually send correspondence, through email or regular mail, with official-looking logos that sometimes resemble well-known organizations or legitimate financial institutions. Scam letters are often written in a way that may generate excitement, using a lot of exclamation marks and persuasive language to emphasize a supposedly amazing offer. When people send in their hard-earned money in response to it, however, they do not receive the promised payout.


Fraudulent mail may also be sent for the purpose of obtaining private information, such as an individual's date of birth; bank account information; or in the United States, a social security number. Criminals then use the information they obtain to steal a person's identity, obtain credit under the victim's name, or even withdrawal money directly from a bank account. For this reason, it is very important for individuals to protect personal information, especially when the request comes from untrusted, unverified or unknown sources.

Before the Internet was popular, scammers frequently used the mail system to commit this type of fraud. Nowadays, email phishing schemes are more common. Criminals are able to send mass emails that may look as though they were sent by legitimate companies or banks. They use strong language, hoping that people will take immediate action with little forethought. For example, a hyperlink is often included within this type of email. Scam letters sent in this manner may urge the recipient to click on a provided link. It usually leads to an erroneous website, which looks very similar to one that belongs to a well-known bank.

An urgent message may even appear, stating that the person's username and password is needed to verify and protect his account. The fact is, however, that by entering this personal information at the counterfeit website, criminals are able to obtain access to authentic accounts. As a result, the financial consequences can be disastrous for the victim.



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