GREENSBORO, NC -- Not a day goes by without a call or email about a sweepstakes, a lottery complete with money orders and checks in the mail. Some of our viewers know it's a scheme. Others are hoping the money is real and are asking us to check into it.
ANYTIME a lottery or sweepstakes asks you to pay fees and wire money back to them for your winnings, it is a scheme.
Last year, the U.S. Postal Service received more than 37,424 mail fraud complaints through the system. But get this, a Federal Trade Commission study shows about 92% of fraud victims *don't* report the fraud.
Postal Inspector Mike Carroll says, "The schemers figured out you weren't going to send them money out of your account unless you got money first, so they send you checks or money orders." U.S. Postal Inspectors say the schemers are so good you won't find out the check is counterfeit until it's too late.
"When you take them to your bank to cash and you send this money outside the country or somewhere else it will take your bank a little while to realize it was a counterfeit document when it comes through their system and you will be the one liable for that amount of money and you will be out the money."
A 2WTK viewer sent in a lottery check she knew wasn't real. But she was frustrated as many of you are. Why can't someone hunt these schemers down? The answer, someone does, U.S. Postal Inspectors.
"We're very aggressive in going after these people. We actually have inspectors that we send over to Jamaica and Nigeria where the scams are coming from. We have our inspectors on the ground there assisting their local prosecutors in finding, arresting and prosecuting these people."
There isn't an army of us postal inspectors, so don't expect these checks to stop completely. What you can do is tell postal inspectors when a check comes to your mailbox. There is a mail fraud complaint form on the post office website.