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

October 12th, 2017

Categories: Lazy, Post Office, Scams

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?

Tags:

12 Responses to “Service of Reporting a Major Scam to the USPS: Little Help to Stamp Out Crime”

  1. David Reich Said:

    Crazy that the post office had such little interest in this, but maybe it just confirms the stereotype about government workers. Sad.

    I would take it one more step, if you want to invest a few more minutes… I suggest you contact the New York Postmaster General at the main office and file a complaint about the way the folks at the Lexington Ave. P.O. handled your query.

    If you don’t want to waste any more time on this, I’d certainly understand. FYI, Kevin J. Crocilla is the NYC Postmaster General. Reach him via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-j-crocilla-95298bb/

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    Good idea–thanks for the suggestion.

    As I was calling a toll free number, not sure if all involved were NY State….and the only totally disinterested person was the last one who worked in the criminal investigator’s department. If a person in that job is burned out–tired of hearing stories or sharing links–he/she should move to another job. There are plenty of people who would like to help others while being paid.

  3. Kathleen Said:

    Just a thought — what about talking to the PR Dept. At Walmart, looking up the TBWS group on line, contacting the NY Attorney General’s office or a TV station with a team that investigates scams. All time-consuming and maybe not worth your time.
    Kathleen

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    Excellent suggestions! I saw TBWS online but didn’t dare click on it. Why? Because there was only one entry in Google. As one of my former bosses and later friends said about my company when I told him I was going to represent a brand at 3M, “you couldn’t get much smaller than your company!” Yet if you type in J M Byington & Associates on Google, you see a page full of entries off the bat. I was afraid that the link to TBWS was a dirty one–another way to “get me!”

    Let’s see what if anything happens when I reach out to postmaster Kevin Crocilla, David’s suggestion. I have two good backup ideas for follow up thanks to you.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    No one yet has made me the offer you received and I would enjoy the shopping. but I have gotten many other scam emails. They usually are fairly obvious from odd combinations of names, countries of origin on the emails, and preposterous demands for info. Quite a while ago when I discussed complaining about it with a retired friend who had worked within the Dept. of Justice she told me a phone number for an agency that did welcome receiving reports about scams sent via email, but I am ashamed to say that I no longer remember it. I remember calling and also remember nothing further happening. The FCC ought to be interested because the solicitation was via email. At this point in time with all the incredible threats of terrorism and extreme physical violence and all the mad fiats our wannabe dictator is issuing, I suspect it would be given less attention. Although infuriating and time-consuming, think of it as a lesser evil than all the other scams currently being perpetrated on us as individuals and a nation.

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    The term “a friend…..” should have produced a big red flag. There are all manner of messages, often starting with the name of a real friend suggesting you visit XYZ site for something “of interest.” One could spend entire days hunting these things down and coming up zip.

    FaceBook has become famous for all manner of scams, so best to ignore all messages except from known entities. I used to get tons of messages in Arabic along with as many friend requests from what seemed to be the Middle East. Lacking connections in that part of the world, these were probably random feelers. Best policy is to toss all such requests in the trash & let them languish there!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    The difference between this scam and others I’ve received both via email and telephone is that this one came in a Priority Mail envelope and the potential loss to anyone who falls for it is $3,000–which could send many to the poorhouse.

    I realize it’s nothing in the scheme of things. Around the UN during General Assembly time, all the mailboxes are removed and some locked closed. But to someone who deposits the check and sends gift cards to the scammers as instructed, the outcome could be very bad for them. I would like to see the creeps who do this kind of thing behind bars and the money they have stolen returned.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I’d actually met the woman I noted was a “friend” which as you point out means nothing….Scammers stroll through all manners of communications. It’s a shame but a reality we live with and will continue to until people are caught and stopped– discouraging others–who will find another way to steal. What a world.

  9. HB Said:

    I find this story deeply disturbing, even shocking, after the lengths you went to be helpful to the authorities trying to stop yet another scammer, but upon reflection, not particularly surprising.

    After all, we have a master craftsman of a con artist as our president, and nobody, despite the mounting evidence, seems to have the guts to stop him, sick or no, from ruining the country. Maybe, while getting most of us killed in the bargain, the Russians, with his help, are going to win the cold war after all?

    Stop worrying about catching crooks, go play with an ”intelligent” phone or amuse yourself with one of the other fancy machines and devices for mind manipulation that “civilization” has brought us. A few con artists, here or there, are not worth bothering your pretty little head with.

  10. jmbyington Said:

    HB,

    May I assume the pretty little head comment is supposed to be funny?

    Too many turn their heads and hope someone else will speak up or complain or report. This laid back attitude has gotten us where we are. I can’t sit still….

  11. Hank Goldman Said:

    Thanks for the heads up. That’s a pretty elaborate scheme. Far more involved than the prince of Arabia died and left you his fortune…

    My guess is the check is no good, and if it is then they have access to your account number on the back of the check and will somehow drain your account?

    And I would also guess that once they have the codes from the cards, that’s as good as cash, and they wouldn’t really need the cards… Wow. What people will think of…

    Will you be able to catch them? I think not.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    The instructions didn’t tell me what to do with the gift cards. I think the important part for them is for the mark to deposit the check and if that person then went to the trouble to go to a Walmart….they’d surely send the cards to wherever they were instructed…I can’t imagine that the check is anything but fake though you came up with an angle I hadn’t thought of: What a way to get the bank number of a person. Anyway, you can buy checks online for almost nothing….so fake or real, that part of the scam was easy to do.

    Adding insult to injury, my bank charges a chunk of money for a bounced check…so there would be that additional loss in which to rub an already injured nose!

Leave a Reply


Clicky Web Analytics