A wave of financial scams are preying upon some elderly residents living within Mineral County, while recently coming to the attention of Kerrin Duff, postmaster of the Hawthorne Post Office. Out of public concern, Duff would like to address what Postal Investigators have found in a few of these local cases. Once a possible scam is properly reported to Duff or called in to the Postal Service Investigative Unit, it is researched by professionals. Some local incidents did yield an arrest on the east coast which allowed scammers less ground in continuing their rip-off schemes. Many of these calls are being initiated from Florida without permanent addresses or businesses, although the area codes can vary with throw away phones being used.
The scenario generally plays out through a simple phone call. The caller begins by reading an exciting script, sharing that you have “won a lottery” which will include financial winnings and possibly a new car or big screen television. Once a warm relationship has been developed by the initial caller, there can be a transfer to another individual which has to “confirm information to verify the actual winnings will be going to the proper person.” The caller may sound professionally validated by having some of your basic information but all of that can be obtained through the internet, call lists and other basic avenues.
“These lottery winnings may sound true, but you are being hooked into the scammers web by something that truly is just too good to be true,” Duff shared. “They find the vulnerable and the elderly who may need the money desperately enough to fall for their phone theft.”
At the final portion of the scammer’s conversation, you are asked to pay for taxes up front. They will say that the requested amount is to be applied against your winnings, before any funds can be sent to you by check. This may be explained as being a standard procedure or because of “out-of-country” levy fees, but either way, Postal Investigators say never give out any money, credit card numbers or buy a money order for these strangers to steal from you. A legitimate organization would never have you pay for your winnings. Instead you would fill out an IRS form, which would not require any money or cash up front. Furthermore, the check which the victims may receive, is fraudulently created on a copy machine and holds no value.
Once these thieves have your initial cooperation, their plot amps up. They may become threatening as they will continue to call for more money to be sent. Some victims are fearful as they were told they could be harmed; turned into governmental authorities, arrested or worse. None of that is true, but scammers do not obey the law.
“These calls have terrified some of our local residents and it created a continuum of money being mailed out. The bullying tactics become effective enough to get our elderly mailing more and more money out.”
Eventually the victims may become embarrassed as they realize it was a scam, but they also remain fearful of stopping the financial payoffs. If any postal staff catches a scam, they will advise you of your rights and the proper protection that is in place to assist in arresting these criminals. “Everyone has rights and protection against these types of scams which use the U.S. Postal Service to do their dirty work,” Duff strongly stated.
Duff stated that under no circumstance should you send cash through the mail system, nor take out money orders to send your hard earned money to these deceitful, malicious criminals. Once caught, there are serious consequences for this type of fraudulent behavior and for their threats of retaliation. Mail fraud carries its own jail time and fines, as does using the phone system to victimize individuals in this way. Should you feel you are a victim of this type of scam you are urged to contact your local postmaster or sheriff’s department to open a proper investigation.