Scam preys on people in need

More than 200 victims lost thousands of dollars

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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It was a letter that made an offer a lot of people couldn't refuse, and the scam artist behind it was banking on that. 

"In this case, they were required to submit $119, in particular, and they would be getting a $1,000 gift card. That gift card in turn for expense whether it's grocery shopping or putting gas in the car- any expense you deemed necessary," explained US Postal Inspector Charles Conliffe.

The letter said, "Due to the economic hardship consumers are experiencing at this time, your household was selected to receive a stimulus gift card in the amount of $1,000."

Victims were told to fill out this acceptance form as well as send in the activation and processing fee.

"I think once they saw the work stimulus it triggered a reaction, I guess subconsciously, where they said, 'If I can get this help, I can do it. So why not send a nominal fee if I can get the help in return,'" explained Conliffe.

Postal inspectors say the scam preyed on people in need.

"People who are desperate, if you are in a tight situation, people are more likely to fall in or be cajoled into something that seems too good to be true," said Conliffe.

More than 200 victims lost $50,000 in this scheme. Inspectors say consumers should be alert to this red flag.

"If you're being solicited to give funds to get funds, I would stay far away from it," warned Conliffe.

And as always, research is key.

"If you don't do your homework or do any background check you are susceptible to being a victim to anything," he added.

Just to reiterate,  there is no such thing as a stimulus card as advertised in this case. If you see a solicitation offering a stimulus gift card, be wary.

The con-artist behind this scam was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail. She was also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

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