RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Many of us could use a check for $10,000, but if you get one in the mail the U.S. Postal Service says there is almost a 100 percent chance it's a scam.
Postal Inspector Mike Romano is a pro at spotting fake checks.
"The scams and schemes, they change but overall the message is clear," he said.
The message - crooks want your money.
A viewer recently got a fraudulent prize award notification in the mail. The pitch - he had won nearly $10,000 because he shopped at one of the major retailers like Wal-Mart, Home Deport and T-J Max. The catch - send in $920 to collect.
"When you wire money, it is pretty much gone once you submit that wire transfer," Romano said.
To entice the victim there's a check enclosed for nearly $1,000 - of course you'll never see that money. Romano says fighting these schemes is an on-going battle.
"In 2009 alone, we intercepted over 800,000 counterfeit checks worth more than $2.7 billion. Our initiatives are up, we are trying to stop the schemes before they come in," he said.
The Inspector says most of these fake lottery letters don't originate within the mail but he says most of them show up in your email box. He says they could also show up on your fax machine.
"The simple thing we would say is don't go for it. Again if it is money that you are not expecting from someone it is certainly too good to be true," Romano said.
If you're curious about how these phony offers end up in your mail box, the inspector says most of the crooks get their hands on mass mailing lists. Romano also says innocent people can get caught up in work at home mailing scams.
"Typically when we go back to the source of where the mailings might be occurring we find individuals who had no idea what they were doing," he said.
To help protect you the U.S. Postal Service set up web sites like FakeChecks.org and DeliveringTrust.com. Both highlight the latest scams and include tips on prevention. If you get one of these fake checks the postal service says don't cash it, but keep it and report it to them. Another web site to checkout for safety tips is https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/