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.

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.

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.

Foreign lottery schemes impact elderly customers

Foreign lottery scheme

Postal Inspectors across the country have observed a sharp increase in the number of scams targeting older Americans in recent years. Seniors are being victimized by foreign lotteries, sweepstakes, and other frauds, and some of these nefarious ploys are carried out through the mail. Jamaica has been a point of origin for many of these scams, and the relentlessness of scam artists is steadily increasing.

In the scam, consumers are told they have won a lottery and asked to mail or wire money upfront to obtain their winnings. These false claims only end up with drained consumer bank accounts as the scammers collect their payday. No legitimate lottery will ask for money up front to collect winnings.

In June 2009, the United States Postal Inspection Service and other law enforcement agencies announced Project JOLT (Jamaican Organized Crime Linked to Telemarketing) to partner with the Jamaican government in an effort to combat Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud operations that prey on U.S. citizens and others.

“Sometimes the best defense is a good offense,” said U. S. Postal Inspector Pamela Durkee.

Postal Inspectors often receive tips coming from postal carriers who notice a high volume of letters addressed to an older resident that advertise a lottery, prize or sweepstakes. Other tips come from alert retail clerks who sense trouble when an elderly customer is repeatedly sending Priority Mail Express mailings and/or purchasing Postal Money Orders.

Only by maintaining constant vigilance can customers be protected from the criminal intentions of unscrupulous scammers.

  • Hello, I'm Benny the Blogger: I'm the world's most famous postal employee. My hobbies are snappy quotes, kite flying and publishing. I was born Jan. 17, 1706, but don't call me old.

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