On the 20/20 episode to air at 10 pm, Friday, October 22, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross will report on a mail sweepstakes scam that defrauded hundreds of elderly Americans. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service initiated the investigation and was the lead investigating agency. Several individuals who were responsible for this scam were apprehended and convicted.
Postal Inspectors arrest more than 1,000 suspects each year for fraud conducted via the mail—and the Postal Inspection Service is just one of many federal agencies that target fraud. Although people 60 and older account for 26 percent of all telemarketing fraud victims, 60 percent of people in that age group are victims of prize or sweepstakes fraud.
That number may sound high, but the actual figure is probably even higher. Victims of prize or sweepstakes fraud often never report it to authorities. It can be embarrassing, even humiliating, to admit you’ve been had.
Postal Inspectors recommend that everyone—regardless of age—take these precautions to themselves from fraud:
-- If you’re unsure about a financial offer, keep a record of it, including all mail and envelopes, and get guarantees in writing before acting on an offer.
-- Don’t give out your credit card or bank account numbers unless you’re sure of who you’re dealing with and what you’ll be getting.
-- Resist high-pressure sales tactics. Insist on time to think and discuss offers with trusted friends, family members, or advisors.
-- Ask the promoter for a call-back number. Respectable companies allow customers time to think about an offer.
-- Report suspicious offers or unsatisfactory transactions conducted by mail via the Postal Inspection Service's online complaint form.