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The feds pore over your mail to flag scams

FORT MYERS, Fla. – When it comes to mail scams, who is keeping you safe? WINK News Call for Action discovered there is a government agency going through your mail to protect you.

Stacks of scams are piled in every corner of Curtis’ home, whose last name we withheld to protect him from more scammers. As the phone ringed non-stop, he told us the scammers are “constantly calling, constantly asking for money.”

Ivan Ramirez understands that frustration. He is a Postal Inspector with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“To date we’re upwards to half a billion dollars of losses altogether.”

As a Postal Inspector, Ramirez is one of 1,400 nationwide who are searching the incoming mail at four facilities like the one in Miami, for fraudulent mail.

“It is a large operation. It is a 24 hour seven-day a week operation. As you know it doesn’t stop, it does not stop,” he said.

The federal agents look to flag any mail that looks like a scam.

“Fraudulent lottery sweepstakes, you’ve won a prize, you just need to send us money to pay your taxes or to clear your customs or to clear our customs.”

But not all the scams are weeded out before they get to your home.

Roy Carmack made a Call for Action, warning viewers about an “Award Notice” he received in the mail. Before anyone could claim the prize, they would need to send in a payment.

“Just a little bit further down, they’re asking us to send $11.89 for some certification or something which don’t make sense. When you win, you win.”

Carmack did not send the scammers a dime, and we discovered that the Postal Inspectors are investigating that very letter Carmack received.

Another popular scam includes sending fraudulent checks to your home. The scammers ask you to cash that check, keep a portion for yourself, and send the rest back to them. When the check bounces, you are on the hook for every dime and scammers get away with free money.

The Postal Inspectors try to weed out those fake checks and shred them before they even reach your door.

“Potential number of losses, and what I mean by that the checks that were intercepted, with winnings have climbed over almost a half a billion of dollars. In the billions,” said Ramirez. “…As far as pieces of mail, we have outside bags, 20 some odd bags of shredded mail that is getting ready to be discarded.”

The shredder is not their only weapon for keeping scammers at bay. Sometimes Postal Inspectors will send a warning attached to your mail.

Pet sitter Rachel Martin used a legitimate website, Care.com, to advertise her businesses. Scammers contacted her about a job and ended up sending her a fake check that came with a letter from the Postal Inspection Service advising her it was likely a scam.

Despite all the tools they use to catch the criminals, Postal Inspectors say they need your help.

“Tell someone [about being scammed]. Don’t be embarrassed. If by any chance you were swindled, you were taken… I guarantee that’s not the end of it. They got you once, they’re going to continue,” explained Ramirez.

If you want to report a mail scam, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Reporter:Lindsey Sablan
Producer:Katie Cribbs
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