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Holiday Mail Fraud: Laws, Penalties & Defense

A Closer Look at Mail Fraud Offenses

Any fraud involving US mail is considered mail fraud, whether it starts in the mail, by phone, or online, according to the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). A federal crime, mail fraud carries federal penalties, including up to 20 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Under 18 USC Section 1341, the federal government outlines two elements in mail fraud:

  • Having devised or intending to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts)
  • Use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts)

There are various types of mail fraud that federal agencies, such as the USPIS and FBI, are investigating. During the holiday season in particular, mail fraud is highly common and affects people of all ages. To best avoid being on the “naughty list” this year, it will benefit you to understand the various types of mail fraud and how they are committed below:

Fraud against older Americans: Elderly and retired persons are typically more vulnerable to falling into mail fraud schemes unknowingly. Among the most common mail scams committed against seniors involved Medicare and health insurance scams, phony prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery scams and investment schemes.

Fraud against Veterans: According to the USPIS, 78% of retired military men and women have been targeted by scams. Many veterans trust their fellow military members and often suffer with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other disorders after returning home from service. As such, many fraudulent claims deal with benefits, employments, and military discounts.

Sweepstakes and lottery fraud: These scams are quite common, as the Federal Trade Commission received nearly 125,000 reports of fraud involving prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries, resulting in a median loss of $860 in 2019. Sweepstakes and lottery scams are often initiated with a call, email, or piece of direct mail congratulating victims for winning a contest. However, these scams ask victims to pay a fee, share their bank details, or purchase gift cards in order to claim the “prize.”

Employment fraud: This offense is defined as an attempt to deceive people who are seeking employment by giving them false hope that they will get a job. Perpetrators will ask victims to send their personal information or bank details, or request a buy-in to secure the job. Common employment scams include pyramid schemes, check-cashing schemes, and fake job offers.

Telemarketing fraud: This type of fraud typically begins with postcards or letters in the mail promoting an appealing offer, prompting victims to call a 900 number or toll-free 800 number. When they do, a telemarketer will pitch victims and pressure them to share their personal information.

Financial fraud: Fraudsters who use deception involving financial transactions for personal gain may be found guilty of this offense. These scams involve promoting an offer that requires payment first, whether it be for a new credit card without a credit check, an advance on a loan, or an attractive deal on a product or service.

Other mail fraud scams: While the scams above account for the most common types of mail fraud, other types of mail fraud include brochures offering services for too-good-to-be-true prices, fake inheritance notifications, and notices asking for payment in exchange for free services.

Accused of Mail Fraud? We’ve Got Your Back.

If you are facing mail fraud charges, you could find peace of mind in knowing that your case may be defendable. With nearly 30 years of experience advocating for clients in tough situations, our Columbia federal crime lawyer is equipped with the skills, knowledge, and legal resources needed to build a powerful defense on your behalf.

Count on us to invest our full time and attention to defending your freedom. To learn more about how we can serve you, contact us at (803) 938-4952!