National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a federal program, led by the Federal Trade Commission, to draw attention to issues and ideas that help customers become smarter consumers of products, materials, and services and improve their knowledge of how to combat fraud of any type.
NCPW is fully supported by the U.S. Postal Service® and managed by the vice president and Consumer Advocate and the chief inspector of the Postal Inspection Service.
The U.S. Postal Service Consumer Advocate’s office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are working to educate consumers about fraudulent schemes and to provide them with the tools and information needed to combat these frauds. During NCPW, other federal, state, and local consumer protection agencies — together with consumer organizations and industry associations — are launching consumer protection and education efforts around the country.
“Financial Literacy — A Sound Investment”
The national theme is intended to educate consumers about making wise purchase decisions and knowing how to avoid scams. Every year, the Postal Service™ supports the national theme by focusing on a specific aspect of the theme.
The USPS theme for this year is “Don’t Fall for a Fake Check Scam.” Our theme builds on the most successful consumer fraud awareness campaign in the Postal Inspection Service’s long, proud, and successful history. We will once again point consumers to the Web site established by the Postal Inspection Service and its business partners, www.FakeChecks.org.
This is a priority project and program for Consumer Affairs managers (CAMs). CAMs will be responsible for overall program planning, with assistance from Postal Inspectors. Public Affairs and Communications (PAC) staff will promote events and activities with local media.
Postmasters and facility managers are encouraged to join in this annual consumer awareness effort by sponsoring or supporting local activities during NCPW, March 2–8, 2008.
The district Consumer Affairs manager should serve as a consultant and resource for postmasters and managers planning NCPW activities.
Field Public Affairs and Communications (PAC) staff will coordinate media outreach and press coverage of the week and coordinate planned events through media advisories, news releases, and calls to area reporters.
Scammers often look for their potential victims on Web sites, in chat rooms, or they share their “sucker lists” with other crooks. The scams may be disguised as a work-at-home business opportunity, a prize from a foreign lottery, or a transfer of foreign money into a U.S. bank. All of them involve receipt of a check which looks genuine and will be accepted for cashing by most banks. The scammer convinces the victim that, for one reason or another, all or part of the check needs to be immediately wired out of the United States. If the victim takes the bait and wires money away, he or she will be on the hook to repay that money to the bank when the check is later found to be counterfeit.
The campaign is intended to empower consumers to watch out for these and other scenarios in their business and personal affairs. Once consumers become educated about how the schemes work, they can stop scammers in their tracks before the deposit of that fake check leads to an unplanned expense of thousands of dollars.
Informed consumers cannot be defrauded. When we stop potential victims from accepting fake checks, we prevent a crime from taking place and demonstrate how we protect the American people from scams sent through the mail.
The FakeChecks.org campaign was launched last October by the Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness, a group spearheaded by the Postal Inspection Service, which includes the U.S. Postal Service and 20 financial institutions, associations, consumer advocacy groups, and businesses. The goals of FakeChecks.org are to do the following:
The best defense against the constantly evolving threat of fraud is to be prepared to instantly identify it. An educated public is the first line of defense.
The Web site, www.FakeChecks.org, serves as the primary vehicle to educate Americans about check fraud schemes so that viewers of the site don’t become victims of a scam.
These scams involve counterfeit checks, gift checks, traveler’s checks, or money orders. Virtually every American could be a scammer’s target, primarily through e-mail, though also through mail and phone solicitations.
The Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness conducted a survey of American adults and found the following:
To learn more about the Consumer Fraud Awareness Campaign, visit www.FakeChecks.org.
Fake check scams are a fast-growing fraud that could ruin your financial investment and cost you thousands of dollars. There are many types of fake check scams, but it all starts when someone offers you a realistic-looking check or money order and asks you to send cash somewhere in return.
These talking points can be used at National Consumer Protection Week events.