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Deep Dive: Fraudsters use postal service to deliver schemes to potential victims

More than 40,000 reports of mail fraud from March 2020 to February 2021
Fraudsters use postal service to deliver schemes to potential victims
Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 10:39:41-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — When you check your mailbox, how much of that daily mail would you say is junk mail or correspondence trying to get you to take the bait on a scam? News5 spoke with a local postal inspector who says it's a problem and residents who say they're frustrated.

Yes. Fraudsters are utilizing technology to target us every day, but still one of the most successful ways these crooks steal money and information is by getting their schemes into the hands of mail carriers who we know and trust and ultimately into your mailbox.

"Personally, I'm sick of going to the mailbox and knowing that as soon as I pull it out it's basically junk," said Vicki, a local resident who stopped to talk with News5 outside of the post office in Colorado Springs.

"I wouldn't accept it. It's fraud," said Carlos who also lives in the Pikes Peak Region. "They are trying to get your money. They are trying to get your attention."

People News5 talked to outside of a Colorado Springs post office all agreed they were frustrated and say they are throwing away junk mail every day that could lead to a scam.

From a secret shopper check scam to a pay first student loan scheme, We've seen it in our own reporting, how mail delivered by the post office sometimes comes with added trust.

"A lot of them, they want to buy my house, or they want to pay me $1,000 for whatever," said Siamac, a local resident who spoke to News5 at the post office. Your warranty is expiring. This is your last chance, your rate is going to go up. I really trust the post office. I don't think it's their fault. They see our address and deliver it. It's for the consumer to pay attention."

Eric Manuel is a United States postal inspector based here in Colorado.

"The postal service is one government entity that delivers to every American house every day six days a week. Right? So, there's no surprise they're using the postal service to capitalize on that relationship," said Manuel.

He says we each have to take some personal responsibility to understand the dangers that could be waiting in our mailbox.

"If a postal inspector would need to search a piece of mail we would need to obtain a federal search warrant to do so. So, we don't scan every piece of mail. We're not able to do that. There are too many pieces of mail and that's not our role," said Manuel.

These are some examples of mail fraud being investigated right now. All of these schemes arriving through the mail and urging consumers to make payments or give up sensitive information.

Postal inspectors are often alerted to mail fraud. From March 2020 to February 2021 there were 40,727 mail fraud complaints. In 2020 there were 426 arrests and 358 convictions.

A big focus for postal inspectors is trying to keep mail sent by international fraudsters out of the mix.

"So, postal inspectors do work with some of the foreign governments who have housed these types of criminals and we've established liaisons in those countries to help head those mailings off before they even reach the U.S. mail system," said Manuel.

According to the United States Postal Inspection Service 2020 annual report, mail carriers deliver more than 129 billion pieces of mail every year in our country. It makes some consumers wonder how much of that workload includes that frustrating junk mail.

"Well I tell my mail carrier, I do know him by name, and I'm like do you have anything for me today except junk? And he's like oh, no sorry," said Vicki. "I think the mail carriers are probably fed up with it too, but what can they do?"

Here are some resources to help you identify mail fraud, how to report it, and some advice to help you manage or stop junk mail from arriving in your mailbox:

How to stop junk mail from the FTC:

How to identify mail fraud and how to report it: