MARTINSBURG – A statewide initiative for National Consumer Protection Week concluded at the Martinsburg Main Post Office on Thursday.
This year marks the 22nd annual showing of the event.
Representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Postal Service Consumer & Industry distributed information to the public about the dangers of fraud occurring through the mail.
Jason Diggs, manager of the Consumer Affairs Appalachian District, led the informative sessions throughout the state and in Roanoke, Virginia.
“It gives us the opportunity to give information to our public of consumers and constituents in the Martinsburg area about how to avoid scams, identity theft and things of that nature,” Diggs said. “It’s very important, because in this day in time, electronics are causing a lot vulnerability. Being able to share this information is beneficial for them and beneficial for us.”
According to Diggs, preventing fraud not only helps the individual being deceived, but also the community in which they reside.
“The reason I say it affects everyone is because of the time it takes for us to investigate. Resources and manpower are taken out every position,” Diggs said. “A lot of the times it also takes from the economy. People are using their credit cards, so the bank has invested interest. Then when a customer loses money, they can’t go and patronize the local businesses. There’s a major trust issue. It affects everyone and every operation.”
U.S. Postal Inspector Ryan Amstone explained that although many scams now begin through the telephone or internet, they are usually prolonged through mail services.
“Usually the mail ties into the phone calls,” Amstone said. “It will start with a call to build rapport and sell the scam and then will convince the usually elderly victim to send money through the mail. For example, they’ll inform a victim that they’ve won the lottery, but they have to pay taxes and fees before the money can be released.”
Although the U.S. Postal Inspection Service works closely with law enforcement, pursuing the criminals responsible for scamming is not always possible.
“Awareness is the best tool simply, because a lot of scammers are oversees,” Amstone said. “We find that most of the lottery scams are tied to Jamaica, and a lot of romance and grandparent scams are tied to Nigeria. It’s really hard to actually identify and investigate, and assuming we do that, the extradition process is very complicated.”
Among the various displayed pamphlets of additional information, Amstone listed the following useful tips to avoid fraud.
“The most common thing is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Amstone said. “A lot of these scams are high pressure, so they will tell you to act now. What we encourage people to do is to just take a deep breath and consult with a family member before they send any kind of payment out that they’re unsure of. Do the research with Attorney General’s Office, Better Business Bureau or Postal Inspection Service for information on the different types of scams.”
The stop in Martinsburg may have been the last on the journey to prevent fraud throughout the region, but detailed information regarding scamming awareness can be found on several websites: deliveringtrust.com, bbb.org and ftc.gov.
The public can also contact the Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-368-8808 and wvago.gov.