The United States mail is supposed to be a way for consumers to send and receive important messages — account statements and bills, jury duty notifications, personal correspondence, and more. Unfortunately, the mail is also a method for scammers to reach tens of millions of consumers with fraudulent pitches, potentially netting these criminals tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits.
In fact, mail fraud has become such a serious threat to consumers that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced a wide-ranging crackdown on mail fraud schemes targeting vulnerable Americans with promises of easy riches and good fortune. The DOJ and its agency and nonprofit partners are also launching a special educational campaign to open consumers’ eyes to the reality of mail fraud.
In one mail fraud scheme shut down earlier this year, scammers in the Netherlands defrauded thousands of consumers in the United States, including many seniors, out of more than $18 million with mailings promising big lottery winnings. All the victims had to do, the scammers promised, was send $15-$55 back to the scammers in pre-addressed envelopes provided by the scammers. In reality, there were no winnings to be gained and the scammers were just out to defraud vulnerable consumers.
Federal law enforcement agents like the DOJ and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) investigate and prosecute these scammers. NCL is proud to be a partner of the DOJ’s efforts to urge consumers to be on the lookout for mass mailing fraud scams. The criminals running these scams are sophisticated and well-versed at making the letters that arrive on consumers’ doorsteps look convincing. However, by following the right advice, consumers can help stop mail fraud before it happens.
- Beware of mail saying you’ve won a prize. Promises of big lottery or sweepstakes winnings is a common way that mass mailing fraudsters get victims to open their letters and engage.
- Never pay to collect a prize. No lottery or sweepstakes program should require you to pay a fee in order to collect winnings. Claims that you must pay upfront “processing fees,” “administrative fees,” “taxes,” or other fees are big red flags.
- Just because the envelope or letter is addressed to you doesn’t make it legit. Scammers know that the more personalized a letter looks, the more likely a victim is to open it and fall for the pitch. Because of this, mass mailing fraud letters often seem very individualized and may even look like they have handwritten notes on them. In reality, the are mass-produced and sent to thousands of consumers like you.
- Watch out for mail from “psychics.” Earlier this year, a fraud scheme claiming to be associated with psychics was shut down, but not before it netted more than $180 million in ill-gotten gains for the scammers. If you receive a letter claiming a “special” message has been sent just for you, it’s almost certainly a scam.
- If you receive a suspicious piece of mail, report it! Law enforcement needs your help to shut down these mass mail fraudsters. If you receive a piece of mail that looks like it might be part of a scam, report it to NCL’s Fraud.org campaign via our secure online complaint form. We share complaints with our network of more than 90 law enforcement partners who can investigate and shut down the scammers.