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Mail Fraud (Remarks by Mr. Cohen, Case Example)

Mail Fraud: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

Mail fraud is no joke – it’s a serious crime that can have major consequences. As more and more of our personal info gets sent through the mail, from credit cards to social security checks, scammers are finding new ways to take advantage. I want to break down the basics of mail fraud, so you can spot scams and report crimes if needed.

What is Mail Fraud?

Let’s start with the definition – mail fraud is any scheme to intentionally misuse the United States Postal Service. This includes things like identity theft, stealing checks or credit cards from the mail, or using the mail to run scams on people. Mail fraud became a federal crime back in 1872 with the passage of the Mail Fraud Statute, one of the first consumer protection laws in the U.S.[1]

Mail Fraud is on the Rise

These days, mail fraud convictions are on the rise. In fiscal year 2022 alone, there were 470 convictions for mail fraud crimes.[1] And the number of incidents reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is up too – there were over 38,500 reports of mail carrier robberies and mail theft in 2022.

So what’s behind this increase in mail fraud? Well, for one thing, the pandemic changed our mailing habits. More people started buying online and having packages shipped, giving thieves more opportunities to swipe deliveries off porches. Working from home meant more mail sitting in boxes longer. At the same time, scammers have been finding new ways to exploit the mail system.

Common Mail Fraud Scams

Some of the common mail fraud scams I want to break down include:

Identity Theft

With identity theft, scammers steal your personal info from the mail to open fraudulent credit cards or bank accounts. Watch out for missing mail, especially if you’re expecting new checks, credit cards, or tax documents. Also, don’t toss mail with personal info in your home trash – steal it first or shred it.

Check Washing

This is when scammers use chemicals to erase details off checks, allowing them to rewrite them for any amount. Only use gel ink pens and never mail outgoing checks from home – drop them at the Post Office instead.

Fake Checks

Scammers mail out real looking checks as part of a fake sweepstakes or lottery winning. But when you cash them, they bounce and you’re on the hook for the money. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How to Protect Yourself from Mail Fraud

While mail fraud is on the rise, there are steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Don’t Share Personal Info with Strangers
  • Shred Financial Documents
  • Deposit Outgoing Mail in USPS Boxes
  • Hold Mail if Away
  • Review Statements Carefully

If you receive a suspicious mailing you think may be a scam, report it to the USPIS so they can investigate. You can file a mail fraud complaint online.

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