New York, NY -- You pay about a hundred dollars for a gift card worth almost ten times more. Sounds like a great deal, right? Wrong. The con-artist behind this scheme was hoping people would only look at the big number. And hundreds of victims did. They lost tens of thousands of dollars to her scheme. So pay attention to this story so you won't end up on the losing side.
U.S Postal Inspector Charles Conliffe said, "In this case, they were required to submit $119, in particular, and they would be getting a $1,000 gift card. That gift card in turn for expense whether it's grocery shopping or putting gas in the car- any expense you deemed necessary."
This letter made the offer. Specifically, it says-- "Due to the economic hardship consumers are experiencing at this time, your household was selected to receive a stimulus gift card in the amount of One thousand dollars."
The letter told victims to fill out an acceptance form and send in the activation and processing fee. Conliffe said, "I think once they saw the word stimulus, it triggered a reaction, I guess subconsciously, where they said 'if I can get this help, I can do it. So why not send a nominal fee if i can get the help in return."
Postal inspectors say the scheme preyed on people in need. Conliffe said, "People who are desperate, if you are in a tight situation, people are more likely to fall in or be cajoled into something that seems too good to be true."
More than 200 victims lost $50,000 in this scheme. Conliffe said consumers should be alert to this red flag. "If you're being solicited to give funds to get funds – I would stay far away from it."
As always, he said research is key. "If you don't do your homework or do any background check you are susceptible to being a victim to anything."
Just to re-iterate, there is no such thing as a stimulus card as advertised in this case. If you see a solicitation offering a stimulus gift card, be wary.
The con-artist behind this scheme was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail. She was also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.