With a rise in fraud and online theft, consumers must be vigilant

Anyone can be a victim of a scam.Anyone can be a victim of a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported receiving 5.7 million fraud reports in 2021, with consumers losing more than $5.9 billion to fraud, up from $3.3 billion the year prior. Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic and rise in digital and online technologies have only exacerbated the rise in overall consumer fraud, as criminals sought to take advantage of the fears of the public by exploiting public health issues, spreading misinformation and creating confusion.

Both public and private sectors are working together to respond to consumer complaints and enhance protections by helping consumers become more vigilant and aware of the signs of fraud.

As part of these efforts, The U.S. Postal Inspection Service — the law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing federal statutes involving crimes against the Postal Service, its employees and customers — along with the FTC, other federal agencies, private sector companies and consumer protection organizations, make it their mission to educate and inform consumers of their rights and share fraud prevention tips.

The security of the U.S. Mail and its employees is the top priority of the Postal Inspection Service. For nearly 250 years, Postal Inspectors have worked to protect Americans from financial fraud and scams.

“Anyone can be a victim of a scam, with the right pitch,” said Gary R. Barksdale, Chief Postal Inspector. That’s why prevention is one of our most important pillars in the mission to protect consumers and bring fraudsters to justice.”

Postal Inspectors provide helpful tips for consumers to protect themselves from fraud, including issues related to:
• Veterans Scams
• Elder Fraud
• Cybercrime
• Election Mail Security
• Coronavirus-related Scams
• Identity Theft
• Mail Fraud
• Mail & Package Theft
• Suspicious and Dangerous Mail

So how do you guard yourself from potential fraud?
• Never provide personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiated the contact and you are sure the company/individual is legitimate.
• Never send money to unknown individuals.
• Do not respond to spam or unsolicited emails.
• Monitor credit card expiration dates and contact the issuer if you don’t receive a replacement prior to the expiration date.
• Review your credit reports annually.
• Read everything given or mailed to you by the person or company soliciting your money — including the “fine print.”
• Do your due diligence. Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau, your state’s Office of the Attorney General, or AARP’s Fraud Fighter Call Center at 800-646-2283, and ask for help determining if an offer is legitimate or not.
• Do an online search to see others’ experiences with the business.
• Reduce unwanted telemarketing calls. Take advantage of call blocking services, some of which are free, or purchase a call-blocking device.

For more fraud prevention tips, visit uspis.gov/tips-prevention. If you are a victim or have witnessed a mail-related crime, alert Postal Inspectors by calling 877-876-2455.
— Brandpoint