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#326 Mail fraud

mp3 #326 Are You a Victim of Mail Fraud or Misuse of Mails? (mp3 file)

You have received a chain letter in the mail. You recognize the last name on the list, and wonder whether that person is counting on you to continue the chain. You would rather not be bothered with it, but would also prefer not to disappoint the sender.

The best action you could take for your friend would be to advise him or her that the U.S. Postal Service warns against participation in chain letter schemes. Any chain letter that requires payment of anything of value, even if it is only a handkerchief, is illegal under federal lottery law. Chain letters are also considered to be fraudulent, because they promise the possibility of large returns for only a small investment.

The mail has made it possible to obtain almost anything without leaving home, but in doing so it has also created a market for many dishonest activities. In addition to the chain letter, another type of mail fraud is the lonely hearts club. Also known as matrimonial or pen pal clubs, they all have the same purpose: that is, to have correspondence with members of the opposite sex, which would lead to the possibility of marriage.

People seeking romance and companionship are offered memberships and mailing lists from companies which call themselves lonely hearts clubs. In some cases, the mailing lists provided by these clubs have been used to solicit money for various reasons. For example, a man might ask for travel expenses from a woman with the promise to join her, and then never show up.

Probably one of the most vicious of fraudulent schemes, aimed particularly at senior citizens, is the sale of worthless medicines and remedies through the mails. The worst schemes advertise a quick recovery. A desperate victim, imagining one of the gimmicks will work, might try one after another. The result could be that proper medical attention is delayed until it is too late.

Other rackets promise cures for obesity, baldness and loss of virility. Medical frauds are so widespread that the postal inspection service has a group of specialists to investigate this illegal activity.

Another common type of mail fraud involves the real estate swindle. Dishonest promoters can sell almost worthless land by mailing attractive brochures and placing advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

They claim the land is suitable for home site, retirement or investment purposes. Anyone considering such a purchase is urged to inspect the parcel of land. It should be determined that the seller can produce a legitimate title to the property, and that the land can be legally used for whatever purpose it is being bought.

Along with these mail fraud warnings, the postal service has laws which forbid the mailing of unordered merchandise by insured or C.O.D. mail. Since the person receiving a C.O.D. article must pay charges before delivery, he or she may mistakenly pay for something that was not ordered or wanted. Notify your postmaster at once if unordered C.O.D.'s are addressed to you. Postal inspectors will investigate.

It is not against the law to simply mail unordered merchandise, provided it is neither insured or C.O.D. so you may have received unordered items in your mail. These items commonly include greeting cards, books, neckties, pen and pencil sets, key rings, and religious medals. If you do not desire to pay for the merchandise, you may write the word "refused" on the cover and return it to the post office. If return postage is guaranteed, this action should cause your name to be removed from the mailing list. If the return postage is not guaranteed the matter will be treated as waste. You may, however, keep the unsolicited merchandise and are under no obligation to pay for it.

In all cases of mail fraud or misuse of mail, the post office itself has no authority to recover money or property which the victim has lost. The post office does not have the power to take any action to adjust transactions which are unsatisfactory or which have left a customer feeling he or she did not get his or her money's worth.

However, where there seems to be a violation of postal laws, the matter is presented to a U.S. attorney for proper action.


If you have reason to believe that you are the victim or mail fraud, contact you nearest postal inspector.

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