Fraud that impacts individuals financially can occur via traditional mail, and in many cases it targets the elderly. Be aware of these scams to protect you and older family members or friends who may become victims.
Advance fee scams: A letter arrives by U.S. postal service (and sometimes by email) that offers something of value if you send money in advance. The offer may be a “free” vacation or prize if you send several hundred dollars in “processing or shipping” charges. It could be a credit card or loan, regardless of poor credit, if you send an advance fee. It may be an unclaimed inheritance that you can locate if you pay in advance for an “estate” report. In reality, once the advance fee is paid, you are no longer able to contact the letter sender.
900 telephone numbers: You receive a letter claiming you can receive an item of value if you call a special “900” number. When you call, you must listen to a long, recorded sales pitch to get your information. Because 900 numbers incur charges, you are actually paying to listen to a bogus message.
Old-fashioned mailbox theft: Thieves remove items with your personal or financial information from your mailbox. For example, they may steal your bank statements, payroll checks or checks you are mailing to pay bills. With your account or personal information, they attempt to access your account or steal your idenity.
Protect Yourself – use the following services when possible:
- Direct Deposit. If you receive your paycheck by U.S. mail, talk to your employer about setting up direct deposit to have it sent electronically to your checking account.
- Online Bill Pay. Don’t leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox for pickup -take them to a postal mailbox or sign up for our free Online Banking and pay your bills electronically. The bill amount is taken directly from your checking account.
- Online Banking and Mobile Banking – Carefully monitor your accounts for unauthorized charges.
- Electronic statements (eStatements). Know when your bank and credit card statements, Social Security checks or pension payments are supposed to arrive each month. Better yet, sign up to have your statements delivered electronically.
- Follow up if bills or new cards do not arrive on time.
- Never respond to a sweepstakes letter by sending in a check to claim your prize.
- Only send checks to charities with which you are familiar.
- If you are asked to send a “deposit” to “get started” with a work-at-home offer or a pyramid scheme, don’t respond.
- If you order merchandise from a catalog and it doesn’t arrive or isn’t what you ordered, call the Better Business Bureau.
- If merchandise you didn’t order arrives COD (Cash On Delivery), just send it back.
If you have been a mail fraud victim, report it directly to the Postal Inspection Service.