RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond resident Mary Davis said she couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened her mail in March to find a check worth nearly $7,000.
“It looked exciting. I could go shopping or do something around my house,” said Davis. “I could do anything with that kind of money.”
But after her initial excitement, Davis said something just didn’t feel right.
“I know I didn’t pay any money for a lottery like this," said Davis.
Davis said she called the number on the check to verify if it was real. She said a man on the other end of the line gave her very specific instructions.
“He said go to the bank, deposit it to my account and then call him once I got back home,” said Davis.
After the phone call Davis had suspicions that her lucky break, might just break the bank.
“I know once I put the check in the bank in my account whoever this person is could get this money and maybe what else I have in the bank,” said Davis.
Fortunately Davis didn’t take the bait, because the check was a fake.
“I’ve been holding it until someone tells me what to do with it,” said Davis.
Michael Romano is a postal inspector with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
Romano said if you’ve fallen victim to a the 'fake check scam’ or receive a check in the mail you suspect to be a fake, calling authorities should be your first move.
“Don’t act on it, don’t deposit that money,” said Romano. “Notify local law enforcement and report that information.”
Romano said every year millions of people get scammed out of millions of dollars from mail fraud like this ‘fake check scam.’
It’s the USPIS’ job to investigate and stop the the scammers, but Romano said that can be tough because several fake checks come from overseas.
“Postal inspectors work closely with our international partners to try and interdict some of these checks that are coming in internationally. Many of them are not actually being printed here in America... they’re coming in internationally,” said Romano. “Once it’s here really what we’re doing is prevention.”
Romano said that scammers will scour the internet to find out basic information like your name or address.
He said that some of the people involved in the scams are also being scammed as well, by the ringleaders in charge.
Individuals who may have gone to a job website and applied for a job may have answered an ad that said ‘Work from home, make $200 a week stuffing envelopes.’
“Those job postings ends up being stuffing checks that are being shipped to them usually in bulk that shipped internationally,” said Romano.
Romano said from there those individuals are provided instructions to take the mail in bulk to a local post office or private courier, which eventually gets sent to individuals like Davis in the hopes that they will fall for the scam.
"Traditionally when you wire money or issue something via money order and it’s transmitted internationally it’s very difficult to recover those funds,' said Romano.
Romano says over 500 people are arrested every year for mail fraud.
“Anybody domestically involved in this scam is in violation of the U.S. mail fraud statute 18 U.S.C. Section 1341, which is punishable up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary," said Romano.
Romano said as the USPIS works to stop these scams, the best thing you can do to keep from falling victim is to use common sense.
“If you’re in person and someone handed you a check would you do it? No. Well why would you do the same thing if it’s coming through the mail?” said Romano.
Davis said while she may not be any richer, she is just glad she didn’t fall for the scam.
“I do need money, but not to get it like that,” said Davis. "Don’t cash it, because once you cash it you’re in trouble. I knew not to.
The Postal Inspection Service urges you to call their hotline at 877-876-2455 or visit USPIS on their website if you area victim of mail fraud.
Romano also urges people to visit www.fakechecks.org to find more information on how to avoid being a victim of mail fraud.
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