TRADING Standards are alerting Chorley homeowners to the latest mailshot scam to hit Lancashire.

Many residents across the region have received 'official notice' letters telling them they have won a valuable prize - anything from a BMW car to a 'free' mobile phone.

The personalised letters posted from Hungary, and promoted by a company registered in the Netherlands, ask consumers to phone a claims number which, the small print reveals, will take nine minutes at a cost of £1 a minute.

Trading Standards officers have worked out that the odds of winning each prize is explained in the small print and anyone responding will receive a mobile phone for which airtime has to be bought - making the phone subject to a contract charge.

The odds against winning any prize other than the mobile phone is calculated at 50,000 to 1.

"This is the latest in a seemingly endless stream of similar overseas mailshots", explained Chris Cheetham, chair of Lancashire County Council's finance committee.

"Experience of similar schemes has shown that anyone responding pays more to get their prize than the value of the item they have won."

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