The U.S. Postal Inspection Service uses consumer education to fight fraudsters. Postal Inspectors help consumers avoid becoming victims of scams. We investigate illegal contests and sweepstakes schemes. We also stop billing scams, identity theft, and fraudulent investments. Work-at-home schemes, rebate fraud, foreign lottery fraud — we see them all in the mail. If there's illegal money to be made by operating a mail fraud, you can bet a scam artist is doing it.
Today, many consumers receive their purchases by mail. Older Americans are particularly vulnerable, and mail fraud operators often prey upon them. These fraudsters then sell their ill-gotten target lists to other criminals. As a result, many elderly people become repeat victims.
The federal mail fraud statute protects consumers from receiving something less than promised. The fraud must have been committed with criminal intent, and the U.S. Mail used to carry out the scheme. Most mail order companies are honest and guarantee their products and services. But a small number of criminals give direct mail advertisers a bad name. They cheat people by selling worthless products, medical quackery, and get-rich-quick schemes. Some fly-by-night fraudsters take your money and send you nothing. Unscrupulous companies don't mind taking advantage of unwary customers.
The scams vary and are plentiful. But you don't need to learn the variations of a scheme to be able to stay away from them. Here are some prevention measures that can help you avoid being scammed.
Safeguard your personal information. Your birthdate, Social Security and other numbers could wind up with a thief or scammer. Consider if those requesting your information have a legitimate need for it. It's fair to ask, "Why do you need this?" and "How are you going to safeguard my information?" Use one payment card or payment service to reduce the risk of sharing your information.
Manage your online profile. Today more than ever, we share vast amounts of personal details on social media. Details about our professional and personal lives could allow scammers to target us. Limit the details that you share online about yourself.
Screen all incoming calls. Get a nonpublished telephone number. Install an answering machine with a large caller ID display. Answer a call only if you know the caller. Otherwise, let the call roll to your voice mail." Teach everyone in your household to do the same.
Block unwanted telemarketing calls. Consumer Reports Magazine has listed devices that block telemarketers and automated robocalls. Free services are also available. Click here to see the listing. NoMoRobo is a free robocall interception service for customers with VoIP service. The service is also available via many phone providers. Check www.nomorobo.com to see whether your service provider supports it.
Opt-out of pre-approved credit offers. Enroll in the national credit reporting bureaus’ program. Call 888-567-8688 or go online to www.optoutprescreen.com.
Reduce unsolicited marketing solicitations. The Federal Trade Commission offers ways to reduce unwanted marketing offers. Visit the FTC here.
We have additional steps to take to protect older family members and loved ones. Learn more by clicking here.