Archive for October 12th, 2017

Service of Reporting a Major Scam to the USPS: Little Help to Stamp Out Crime

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Photo: flickr.com

Reporting a scam to the proper authorities, with the goal of punishing and putting the nasty people out of business, wasn’t simple. It impacted me in time and anxiety and I have no idea if anything will come of my efforts.

I made a big mistake: I responded to an offer on Facebook that appeared to have come from a “friend,” to be a secret shopper. “What fun!” I thought, to check out businesses in my neighborhood: I do this anyway and it would be worth a post, at least.

I got a Priority mail letter this week sent from Philadelphia with a check inside from a Vacaville, Calif company, the TBWS Group, for $3,450, and a sheet of convoluted instructions [photo below right]. I was to deposit the check immediately; report my activity at an online address to confirm receipt of the check and instructions and promptly visit the nearest Walmart to buy $3,000 worth of gift cards.

If the awkward word choice in the headline—“Secret Surveyor Evaluation,” and errors in the copy didn’t catch my eye, the useless information they wanted to know about the gift card buying process blew an orchestra’s worth of whistles. In addition, the promised “stores in your neighborhood” was bunk as there are no Walmart stores in NYC—the closest being in NJ.

My colleague, David Reich, confirmed my impression as a few years ago he’d been approached with a similar con involving money and his checking out the services of Western Union. Google also helped verify that this is a scam.

I had proof—the envelope with return address, the check, an email from Sandra Wayne from a gmail account urging me to proceed with the project–so I wanted to share it with the postal authorities. These were the steps I ended up having to take:

  • I went to the Grand Central post office near my office. The policeman stationed there said he hears about these scams every few days, and to either rip up the evidence or go to window 24 if I wanted to report it. I did the latter.
  • The lady at window 24 gave me the phone number of the postal inspector. It wasn’t correct—the area code turned out to be wrong–so I had to look up the number.
  • I spoke with two people—the first thanked me for my interest in helping get the perpetrators and the second, in the criminal investigator’s department, was bored, didn’t want to hear about it and wouldn’t give me the link to the online form to fill out. Instead, she said I should find it on Google!
  • As I don’t trust such links taken from Google in today’s climate–there were several listed—I fished around the official USPS website until I found it and filled it out. My case didn’t quite fit the questions and there were no opportunities to fine tune responses.

There must be thousands of people who knock on the USPS’s door and I’m not the only one bent on reporting a potential wrong, but there should be an efficient way for people to communicate details of a scam to the postal service. To start, the woman at window 24 should have handed me a printed page with the link to the form and the correct phone number.

Would you have bothered to report this or would you have predicted it would be a waste of time? Have you been frustrated in reporting a scam to any large entity? Do you think that capturing the scofflaws is hopeless?

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