Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Greg Stumbo and U.S. Postal Inspector Warn Consumers of Mail Scams During National Consumer Protection Week
As part of National Consumer Protection Week, February 4-10, Attorney General Greg Stumbo and U.S. Postal Inspector, Roberta Bottoms, today warned consumers of fast-growing scams, sweepstakes and rip-offs reaching mailboxes and cheating consumers each day across Kentucky.
“What better time to warn consumers of the latest tactics scam artists are using to steal their hard earned dollars,” said Attorney General Stumbo. “These crooks are more sophisticated, technologically savvy and covert than ever before. As a result, consumers across the state are falling prey to their attacks.”
The most popular mail scams include work-at-home schemes/business opportunity scams, sweepstakes/lottery promotions and rebate check rip-offs.
Some consumers fall victim to work at home schemes after completing applications for a job over the Internet. The applications often involve filling out personal information online. Soon after, the consumer receives emails, calls or mail from “prospective employers” notifying them of work-at-home business opportunities.
One company in Canada, “Shopping Group, Inc.,” recently targeted Kentucky consumers. It sends a letter notifying them that they have been chosen as a “mystery shopper.” A check for $5,000 is enclosed. The recipient is instructed to immediately wire $2,500 to Canada and send another $1,200 by MoneyGram. The “balance” is to pay for expenses, time and the purchase of items from stores assigned to the shopper. The check is counterfeit and consumers who fall prey to this scam not only lose money by sending the funds to Canada but are pursued by their banks to return the funds or be prosecuted.
“Con artists cannot commit fraud unless you agree to help him or her do it,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Roberta Bottoms. “Mail fraud is one of the few crimes that you, as a consumer, can usually prevent. You can do so by refusing to give anyone your money without first verifying their legitimacy.”
A second scheme that grows more fervent each year relates to sweepstakes and lottery promotions. Consumers are again mailed very official looking checks. They are told to wire a portion of it to a company, often in a foreign country, to cover fees and taxes. In return, the consumer is promised a sweepstakes prize or lottery winnings.
Again, the check is counterfeit and the consumer is responsible for repaying the bank. In Kentucky, all foreign sweepstakes and lotteries are illegal.
The third ever-growing scam involves rebate checks mailed to consumers. The consumer receives a small rebate check from an unknown company. In very fine print on the back of the check it states that if cashed, the consumer will be enrolled in a discount savings club or ID theft protection program for a monthly fee. Others might bind the consumer to a service contract. Once the consumer deposits or cashes the check, the scam artist has their bank information and withdraws funds directly from the consumer’s bank account.
“Your best weapon against these con artists is information,” said Attorney General Stumbo. “By being an informed consumer, you can avoid becoming a victim. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Consumers can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 to inquire about the legitimacy of a particular company or solicitor. Consumers can also go to www.usps.com/postalinspectors for further information about mail fraud and other crimes investigated by the postal inspector’s office.