Protecting Yourself

Lock your mailbox.  Mailboxes with locks are available at your local hardware store or big box chain store.  Most cost between $30 and $75.

Be suspicious.  If you receive a letter out of the blue telling you you’ve won something, assume it’s a scam.  Shred it immediately.  It doesn’t matter how appealing it sounds.  This applies to any kind of prize notification, whether the promised prize is money, merchandise or travel.  Aside from the fact that the lottery scam is a clear rip off, the premise itself is illegal.  Taking part in foreign lotteries while you are in the United States is prohibited by federal law.  

Do not make contact. 
Again, shred the letter.  Phoning a scammer is like a fish putting its mouth on a hook to see what it feels like.  Don’t give them the chance to reel you in.  And they will.  They’re good.

Keep it to yourself.
  Do not reveal personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue.  

Do not deposit unsolicited checks. 
Let’s review.  The checks are fake.  They’re sending you a fake check and asking you to wire them back real money.  Your money.  

Do not be rushed.
  One of the telltale signs of a con is the need for speed.  If someone sends you a fake check, they need you to deposit it and send them your money before you discover their check is no good.  This means they’ll want you to work quickly.  Hopefully you will never get to this stage because you will have shredded that check.

Do your research. 
Advertised work-from-home programs are attractive, but most are scams.  Beware of any that require you to buy merchandise up front or to send in a payment.  Also avoid any that guarantee large profits.  Even as a legitimate mystery shopper, you will only make between $8 and $20 per evaluation.  

When in doubt, check it out. 
If you receive an official-looking letter, don’t take it at face value.  Mail that looks official but isn’t should contain a disclaimer.  If there is no disclaimer and the letter is supposedly from a government agency, contact that agency directly.  Do not use the contact number provided in the letter.  You can find contact information for federal, state and local government agencies online at

Go to the authorities.  If you receive something through the mail that seems suspicious or fraudulent, call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.  You can also file a mail fraud complaint online at their website,

If you feel the situation is more urgent, or if you have already lost money to a scam artist, contact your local police department.  Reporting the crime can help law enforcement officials alert the public and track down the criminals.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”


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