Every time you turn around, con artists have devised a new way to trick people out of their hard-earned money. These scammers love to target seniors, so please make your older loved ones aware of these swindles, so you can show them how to avoid mail fraud. Some schemes could land your aging relative or friend in jail, instead of the real crook.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service warns that if you received a package (whether you shipped the box or not) bearing a bright orange sticker that reads “Return to Sender by Postal Inspectors,” you might be the victim of an illegal mail scam. Here are five of the top mail frauds the U.S. Postal Inspectors see:
- You did not mail the package. If you receive a package in the mail that looks as if you sent it, but the Postal Inspectors returned it to you, and you know you did not mail the box, someone might have used your credit card illegally. The way this scheme works is that a company gets hold of one of your credit cards and uses it without your consent. They send you a product claiming that you ordered it, and they charge it to your credit card. Immediately notify your credit card and bank and stop all unauthorized use of your cards and accounts.
- Someone paid you with a counterfeit check or postal money order. Some scams involve having you do work (such as work-from-home tasks) for a company, then they pay you with a check or money order. The firm instructs you to keep some of the money and send the rest somewhere else. You dutifully do so, only to discover that the check or money order bounced, because it was counterfeit or drawn on a non-existent account. Not only do you not get paid for your work, but you also will have returned check fees from your bank. To make matters worse, the money you sent on to someone else for the firm will come out of your bank account.
- Mystery shoppers. If you get an email that offers you a gig as a mystery shopper, the odds are it is actually just a counterfeit check or money order scheme as discussed in the earlier paragraph. Always check reviews of organizations, before you agree to work for them. Also check with the Better Business Bureau and the state or federal Attorney General’s office to see if there are complaints about or investigations of the firm. You can verify if a postal money order is counterfeit, by calling 1-866-459-7822. Always check the authenticity of money orders before depositing them.
- Work-from-home swindles. Some work-from-home positions are illegal activities that could land you in jail. The job titles can be things like “Package processing assistant” or “merchandise processor.” The company sends you packages you turn around and send to someone in a foreign country, using mailing labels the company emails to you. The boxes can contain (unknown to you) drugs or other contraband, smuggled goods, counterfeit postal money orders as part of a mystery shopper or similar scam, or goods bought with stolen credit cards. When the feds bring down the organization, you could get caught in their net.
- Sweetheart cons. Instead of a criminal company, in this scenario, an individual befriends you through social media. After gaining your trust, he or she will ask you to send money for some cause designed to play on your sympathy or to ship packages to other countries for them. The cause is fake or is a cause that exists, but the funds will never go to the legitimate entity. The contents of the packages are illegal and could cause you to get a criminal conviction and go to prison.
Help your aging loved ones avoid getting duped by these charlatans. These schemes only work because the con artists trick people. The best way to avoid being a victim, is to be aware and prepared.
Talk with an elder law attorney near you, to discover how your state’s regulations differ from the general law discussed in this article.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Was Your Package Returned with This Label?” (accessed August 15, 2018) https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/radDocs/consumer/ReshippingScam.html