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Voice of the Consumer: Stay ahead of scams in 2018

December 31, 2017 Updated: December 31, 2017 at 2:56 pm
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Katie Pelton

It's not hard to think of more than 11 scams you have received in the past year, whether they are phony emails or phone calls. Unfortunately, I'm sure that trend will continue into 2018. Recently, I worked alongside retired anchor Betty Sexton to look back on the top scams of 2017. The special aired on Christmas Day, but if you missed it, it's airing again New Year's Day at 4 p.m. on KKTV 11 News. I want to go more in depth on one of the topics we covered.

Over several years, Beverly Weinert, 83, lost more than $32,000 as part of the Publishers Clearing House scam. A man in Jamaica gave her several reasons why she had to wire money. In reality, Publishers Clearing House will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a big prize. We brought in an expert who is focusing on scams like this.

"Postal inspectors have been investigating mail fraud, which Publishers Clearing House scams certainly fall within that statute," said Eric Manuel, a postal inspector for the Denver headquarters of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "We've been investigating that since the Mail Fraud Act was initiated in 1872. Recently though we've noticed an uptick in those crimes and have posted a postal inspector in Jamaica to assist with working with local law enforcement to bring these people to justice."

"He works closely with local authorities and also with the U.S. State Department and the FBI and other federal law enforcement entities and State Department type entities that can coordinate with other countries at a much higher level to be able to bring these people over to our country and face justice," said Manuel.

Another scam his office deals with is what's called the "repacking scam." "Often we see examples where someone will see a work from home opportunity, they see a job posting on monster.com or indeed.com where they see an opportunity to maybe send packages to troops overseas or to send packages to sick children overseas or something of that nature. They're sent packages of U.S. merchandise from U.S. shippers or U.S. merchants but then they're asked to repackage that or send that to a place outside the U.S."

You think you are helping a legitimate company, instead you are tied up in a tricky scam. "The problem is, that merchandise was often purchased with fraudulent credit cards," Manuel explained. "So the people who are signing up for these apparently legitimate work opportunities are actually becoming middle men for a much larger criminal spree. They can actually be held criminally liable if they don't cooperate with law enforcement and stop when they're advised to."

His advice is to talk with your loved ones about scams to make sure they are aware of what's out there. Don't give out any personal or financial information to strangers. Let's work together this year to stay ahead of the scams and protect our hard-earned money. Happy New Year!

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