What is Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud is an attempt to commit any type of fraud by using the United States Postal Service (USPS) or some private or commercial interstate mail carrier. In this crime, the criminal uses mails to defraud someone of money, property, etc.
Mail fraud is a federal crime in the United States since 1872. Both individuals and businesses may commit this crime. Furthermore, the fraud must be committed purposely. In conclusion, using the mail accidentally or unintentionally to cause someone else to lose money or property is not considered mail fraud.
What are the Laws for Mail Fraud?
In mail fraud, the perpetrator mails out something with the intent of defrauding another person. It usually involves a deceptive letter that encourages or tricks the victim into sending money to the perpetrator.
The mail fraud laws have several requirements. All these requirements are necessary in order to file criminal charges against the offender.
- The perpetrator must actively be trying to defraud someone and not deceive them. The difference between the two is that in cases of defrauding, the sender is attempting to get something for nothing. On the other hand, in deception, a legitimate service or product is offered.
- Secondly, the case must be intentionally committed.
Examples of Mail Fraud
- Case 1
In 2002, a resident of Texas sold fraudulent certificates of deposit (CDs) via the U.S. Mail to roughly 80 investors. A majority of the investors were senior citizens. He earned approximately $6.5 million after pulling this scam. The man never actually purchased the CDs. He used shares of the money to pay other investors and used the remaining for his personal expenses.
- Case 2
Two employees of the company that publishes Business Week were involved in a conspiracy to commit securities fraud. They revealed confidential information about publicly held companies. They also sold the insider trading information to two co-defendants. In addition, they stole the information from an issue of Business Week a day before it hit the newsstands. The duo earned thousands of dollars after pulling this scam.
- Case 3
A resident of Arizona executed an age-old envelope-stuffing scam. He published ads in national magazines on how to run an envelope-stuffing business. He promised that he will send stuffing materials to those who send him money ($18 to $36) for supply costs in return. Although he mailed instructions about the business but he never mailed the actual materials. Eventually, he was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and fined with $1 million in victim restitution.
What are the Various Mail Fraud Schemes?
There are different types of mail fraud schemes. These are:
- Employment Fraud
Employment Fraud includes Phony Job Opportunities, Distributorship and Franchise Fraud, Postal Job Scams, f Work-at-Home Schemes, Multi-Level Marketing Jobs, etc.
- Financial Fraud
Financial Fraud includes Credit Card Fraud, “900” Telephone Number Fraud, Investment Fraud (Ponzi Schemes), Advance-Fee Loan Schemes, Charity Fraud, etc.
- Fraud against Older Americans
Fraud against Older Americans includes Sweepstakes Advice for the Elderly.
- Telemarketing Fraud
Telemarketing Fraud includes Rules for Telephone Solicitations, Characteristics of Telemarketing Fraud, etc.
- Other Types of Mail Fraud
This includes Phony Inheritance Scam, Sweepstakes and lottery fraud, Missing Persons Fraud, etc.
What is the Penalty for Mail Fraud?
The penalty for mail fraud could be quite severe and include both fines and imprisonment.
- In cases of fines, they can reach up to $1,000,000 in some cases.
- Prison sentences can reach up to 20 years – 30 years in cases which affect financial institutions.
- Additionally, the state law could bring more punishments depending upon the intensity of the crime. Factors like the nature of the fraud, the victim, and the criminal history of the criminal influence the final punishment.
How the U.S. Postal Service deals with Mail Fraud?
The United States Postal Service offers advice for avoiding various types of mail fraud schemes.
In order to identify and prosecute people who engage in mail fraud, the United States Postal Service depends on individuals to report the crime. The U.S. Postal Service consists of trained inspectors who investigate fraud and mail schemes. These Inspectors inspect any case which uses postal service at any point in the crime. It doesn’t matter whether internet fraud, phone, or some other means led to the crime.
If mail fraud is discovered, these postal inspectors seek trial of criminals. Unfortunately, postal inspectors do not have the authority to ensure victims receive a reimbursement in their loss. However, in many cases, victims may seek compensations through a civil lawsuit against the offenders.
How to report Mail Fraud?
If you suspect mail fraud, take the following steps:
- Contact the U.S. Post Office in your jurisdiction.
- Talk to your mail carrier to learn the appropriate steps to take related to the crime.
- Report complaints online by visiting the website of the United States Postal Service or call 1-800-275-8777.