Congratulations! You may already be the winner - of a bogus vacation, useless product or illegal chain letter.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service tallied the 416,216 complaints it has received this year and reports that five scams seem to be the most popular ways to fleece Americans.
The “Five Biggest Lies told to Consumers,” postal inspectors say, are:
1. “You are a guaranteed winner” of a valuable prize.
This ploy asks the so-called winner to pay for chemically inert “vitamins,” cheap home security systems and water purifiers, or contribute to a fake charity, before getting what turns out to be a booby prize.
2. “This chain letter is legal.”
Sooner or later everyone gets one of these, the inspectors say, but after you pay for copying and mailing out letters, it’s one of life’s biggest losers. Also, any chain letter that asks for money is illegal when sent through the mail.
3. “Stuff envelopes at home and earn big money.”
These scams ask victims to send money for a “plan.” Here it is: Send out letters asking people to send money for a plan.
4. “Your humble assistance is highly solicited in transferring millions of dollars, available from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, to share with your good self. All we need is your bank account number.”
The scam is to get some advance money from the victim, sort of a pigeon-drop via the mail. The good faith money quickly disappears, of course. Formerly targeted at businesses, this scam is now turning to individuals, the inspectors say.
5. “You’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation.”
All you have to do is pay a one-time membership fee or handling charge, the offer claims. But inspectors say the vacation can turn into a nightmare of scheduling problems, shabby hotels and nonexistent cruises that leave vacationers standing on the dock.
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