Think Mail Fraud is an Outdated Crime? Think Again
While most of the focus on fraud these days is centered on hacking and cyber scamming, it's important to remember that mail fraud still has a very real impact in the fraud space. Scams involving stolen property, reshipping, money laundering, are all very real dangers which are still prevalent today. Last week, we asked Ricky Vida, an inspector with the US Postal Inspectors Office for some information on what he's seeing in the mail fraud space, and what sort of things consumers should be on the lookout for.
"One of the primary things we like to remind people of is that all foreign lotto's are illegal." Foreign lotto's scams have become more prevalent in the last few years, as criminals have figured out that certain technologies can be used in collusion with the traditional mail service to make for a more effective scam. "Technologies like Google Earth and social media platforms are effective ways of learning more intimate information about who you are and where you live." This background research can make an email scam aimed at inducing the victim to send money through the mail so much more personal and hence harder to identify as a scam.
Once you send money or goods through the mail to a foreign country like Jamaica or Nigeria, kiss it goodbye. By the time you realize you've become the victim of a mail scam, it will be too late to recover any stolen funds or property. The U.S. Government has no jurisdiction and little influence in the countries where many of these type of scams come from, leaving very few if any real options to redress any issue. In addition, you may now also have had some role in handling stolen property, mailing or cashing fraudulent checks, or sending money to criminal enterprises.
So what can the consumer do to lower their risk of falling victim to mail fraud? A little skepticism goes a long way. So you've won a Jamaican lottery (see above reference to foreign lotto's), well did you buy a ticket? So you've won a new car and they want you to pay the taxes? Do you remember entering a give-away? Are they ready to make delivery on the car or do they want payment of the taxes up front and in full before delivery? You've won a free vacation? Well again, did you enter a contest? And if you're a winner, why exactly do they need your banking information?
If you suspect you've been or the victim or the attempted victim of mail fraud or a related scam contact the Us Postal Inspectors office at (877) 876-2455 or atwww.usps.com/postalinspectors
"Think Mail Fraud is an Outdated Crime? Think Again" was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.