National Consumer Protection Week

Scammers are on the lookout for new deceptive tricks to line their pockets with your cash, and they’ll use every technique in their arsenal to lie, cheat, and bully their way into your pockets. It’s up to you to protect yourself and loved ones from these criminals, but you’re not alone in the fight.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week, a time dedicated to raising consumer awareness about the tactics scammers might use to steal your hard-earned money, and how to prevent them from doing it.

The Postal Inspection Service has developed the website to provide you with the tools you need to defend yourself against fraud. The website contains detailed information on a variety of fraudulent schemes including foreign lottery and sweepstakes scams, elder fraud, and how to report fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission also has a website at that contains free consumer protection education materials, articles on the latest scams, and links to helpful resources.

Money order scam foiled by concerned clerk

Long Pine, NE, Retail Associate Charity Fay

Long Pine, NE, Retail Associate Charity Fay

When an elderly customer in Long Pine, NE, repeatedly sent money orders via Certified Mail to an address in Florida, Retail Associate Charity Fay evaluated the situation and told the woman that she was likely the victim of a scam. The woman accepted that conclusion and agreed to refrain from sending any additional money to the recipient.

The following week, the elderly woman sent several additional money orders to the same recipient via Priority Mail Express. Fay concluded that the woman didn’t fully understand that she was the target of a scam, so the concerned associate contacted the Postal Inspection Service for assistance.

A postal inspector visited the woman and her husband at their home and explained the situation to them. That’s when the husband told the inspector that they’ve lost approximately $40,000 in the last 10 years to scams.

While the elderly victims aren’t able to recover the majority of their losses, Fay’s concern for the welfare of her customers allowed the Postal Inspection Service to recover $965 that the woman recently sent to scammers.

Sweepstakes jackpot too good to be true

Edmonds, WA, Retail Associates Fritzie Ramos, Larry Hall and Patty Garcia saved an elderly couple from a fraud scheme.

Edmonds, WA, Retail Associates Fritzie Ramos, Larry Hall and Patty Garcia saved an elderly couple from a fraud scheme.

Alert Retail Associates in the Edmonds, WA, Post Office recently stopped an elderly couple from sending their life savings to collect an alleged sweepstakes jackpot they had won.

Retail Associates Larry Hall, Patty Garcia and Fritzie Ramos convinced the couple, who wanted to purchase $6,500 in money orders, not to do so. The couple indicated they had already mailed $2,000 to an address in Iowa and were told they needed to send an additional $6,500, all the money they had left in their bank account.

Garcia contacted the Post Office in Iowa where the checks were to be sent and had the Postmaster intercept the earlier mailing, saving the couple their $2,000.

Scammer plot foiled by concerned clerk

Bellevue, NE, Retail Associate William Reynek

Bellevue, NE, Retail Associate William Reynek

Bellevue, NE, Retail Associate William Reynek was serving customers behind the counter when an elderly woman approached him. She presented $2,300 in cash and asked for help to send it Priority Mail Express to the intended recipient. Reynek recognized that the woman could be the victim of a scam, and that if she sent cash to the recipient, she’d likely never receive what the other individual promised in return.

Reynek convinced the woman to convert the cash into money orders as a safer alternative to cash. The woman agreed. After 30 minutes, the woman returned to the counter and told Reynek that she needed to change the payee on the money orders to a different person or send cash as the recipient originally asked her to do. With this new information in hand, Reynek knew she was likely being manipulated by a scammer.

The customer was still on a telephone call with the scammer during this process, so Reynek asked to speak with him. He asked the caller about his relationship with the woman, to which the individual replied, “I’m a relative.” Reynek asked additional questions, but the caller hung up before answering. That’s when Reynek convinced the woman she was dealing with a scammer and told her not to send the money.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” said Reynek.

Postmaster Elizabeth Norton appreciates Reynek’s efforts to prevent a customer from losing her hard-earned money to a scammer.

“There was a customer in line when this all happened and she posted some very positive comments on Facebook,” said Norton. “It’s getting a lot of hits.”

Elderly residents receive tips on avoiding scammers

Lottery scam

During a recent special presentation at the Metcalf Senior Citizens Center in Anaconda, MT, Anaconda Postmaster Tom Hansen and Postal Inspector Walt Tubbs discussed the dangers of foreign lotteries and sweepstakes scams. They informed the audience that no legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will ever ask for money in order for someone to receive his or her winnings.

Scammers may ask for an upfront payment to handle taxes or insurance, but they also might request a person’s social security number, bank account information, or other personal data that can be used against the target of the scam.

“Never give out your personal information to anyone you don’t know,” said Hansen during the presentation.

Hansen and Tubbs also warned the audience about the dangers of online classified ad scams. In it, the scammer offers to buy an item that a seller has listed on a site such as Craig’s List. The buyer sends the seller a check for more than the asking price of the item. The scammer then asks the seller to cash the check and wire back the difference. By the time the seller finds out the buyer’s check is a fake, the scammer already has the seller’s money.

The presentation at the Metcalf Senior Center provided attendees with the tools and knowledge they need to protect themselves against scams and how to report scammers to law enforcement.

Suspicious Emails Could Open Your Computer to Attack

Scam alert

Cyber criminals are always looking for their next score, and that target could be you. Do you know what to do if you receive a suspicious email?

In a suspicious email, the criminal will use tempting or threatening language to get you to do one of two things: click on a link or download an attachment. If you do either of these actions, you open your computer to attack from the criminal.

If you receive a suspicious email, do not open any attachments or follow any links that may be embedded in the suspicious message from an unknown sender.

Scammer Foiled by Vigilant Employee

Retail Associate Kelly Stover.

Retail Associate Kelly Stover.

Ocean Shores, WA, Retail Associate Kelly Stover became very concerned when an elderly man came into the office and said he wanted to mail cash. Kelly suggested he get a money order, but the man said he was told to either wire the money or to send cash.

The man did not say what the money was to be used for or how he had come into contact with the person requesting it. Stover convinced him to send it by Certified Mail and to be sure his return address was on the envelope. The customer agreed and Stover accepted the mail piece, which weighed about four ounces.

She notified Postmaster Mark Williams of the incident who in turn contacted the Postal Inspection Service. Stover was advised not to put the piece into the mail stream. The Postal Service contacted the man’s wife who asked that the envelope not be sent. She came to the office and retrieved it.

It is not known how much money was in the envelope, but Postal Inspectors are certain it was a case of fraud.

Seattle Postal Inspector Michelle Brooks praised Stover, “Our people do a great job for the community, often going above what they are required to do. This definitely made my day.”

Hackers Targeting Your Holiday Purchases

Hackers targeting your holiday purchases

An email from a well-known retailer arrives in your inbox confirming a recent purchase. It looks authentic and includes the company’s logo as well as what looks like a genuine link to its website. You don’t recall the specific purchase mentioned in the email, but decide to click on the link to see what it’s about.

That click just opened your computer to the whims of a nefarious cyber intruder.

Just in time for the holidays, hackers are simulating purchase emails from well-known retailers to email accounts across the country. Their hope is that an unsuspecting individual will click on the link and give the hacker access to that person’s computer.

Beyond the search for personal data, access to a person’s computer allows a scammer to use it as their own personal robot, free to send spam and other electronic instructions to others in the hopes of furthering their wicked intent.

Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of these despicable individuals.

If you receive an email such as the one described above, do not click on an embedded link. Links can be modified to look like an authentic website, but direct a curious clicker to an entirely different site.

To verify the authenticity of the email, open up a separate browser window and manually type in the company website. You can peruse account details from there.

Stay safe this holiday season by remaining vigilant against cyber humbugs.

Devious Callers Want to Steal Your Money

Stressed Over Money

It’s a quiet, uneventful Saturday afternoon. The whoosh of cool air from the air conditioning system kicks on, sending a surge of arctic air through the room. A commercial for the latest in sun screen protection dances across the television screen when the telephone rings. With casual ease, you lift the receiver.

“Hello?” you ask.

“Congratulations!” the voice on the other end of the receiver announces. “You’ve just won the mulit-million dollar sweepstakes prize!”

After chatting with the individual, you discover that in order to claim your sizeable prize, you must first mail a check to the sweepstakes office to pay for fees and taxes. Did your ship finally come in? Or is this just a mere illusion trying to lure you into giving away your hard-earned money?

Criminals engage in many despicable acts similar to the one above to steal money away from those who fall victim to their web of lies. Elderly individuals in particular are among the favorite targets for these scammers. Once a vulnerable person is victimized, the thief is likely to continue dangling the promise of wealth as new fees and taxes are siphoned away from the target, slowly draining away what a person spent a lifetime accumulating, including vehicles and homes. And once a victim’s resources are gone, recovery is highly unlikely, leaving that person without the means to support retirement. At this point, an elderly victim may have no choice but to move in with children, creating an unexpected financial expense that could have been avoided.

The key to stopping these criminals is awareness. Go to: to learn more about how to prevent you and your loved ones from becoming the next victims of these nefarious scoundrels.

Watch Out for Bogus Emails

Watch out for bogus emails

Scammers are always looking for easy access to sensitive information, and they’ll use every trick they can to get what they want. A recent ploy used by digital bandits is to send emails to unsuspecting individuals claiming to be from the Postal Service. The only services delivered by these emails are frustration, lost privacy and the possibility of financial harm.

The message contained within a bogus email informs a recipient about an attempted package delivery. It creates a sense of urgency, heightening both curiosity and fear, then instructs the reader to click on a link, open an attachment, or print a label. If an individual clicks on the content of the message, it opens up that person’s computer to potentially devastating consequences.

The simple act of clicking on an object in the email can install a malicious virus designed to steal personal information from a computer. When installed, the virus can grab user names, passwords, financial information, and more. Everything on a victims computer might become completely accessible to a scammer for use in whatever manner he or she desires. Despite the clever attempt at manipulating a target into clicking an object in an email, there is something everyone can do to help protect themselves – don’t click it.

If an email such as the one above pops into an inbox, the best thing a person can do is to delete the message.

To report this scam to the Postal Inspection Service, email:

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