According to KY3-TV in Springfield. MO:
Some of your mail may have disappeared — not at the hands of thieves but at the hands of law enforcement. Since 1994, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has destroyed more than 20 million pieces of mail, a practice that continues. The service hopes it’s protecting people from getting scammed.
“We’ve been working with Customs to seize suspicious letters coming through borders to the United States mail stream,” said Postal Inspector Dan Taylor.
It’s all in an effort to protect people from foreign lottery scams aimed at stealing thousands of dollars.
“It’s always a scam; there is no legitimate foreign lottery that can be played in the United States,” said Taylor.
The typical scam involves a notification letter that someone has won a contest or lottery and a check with the winnings. The scammers ask the receiver to deposit the check and then send back a portion of it for taxes and other fees. Of course, the check turns out to be a fake.
“They have access to funds. They send money off and, two to three weeks later, the bank calls and says you owe us money you withdrew out of your account,” said Taylor.
The Postal Inspection Service estimates victims of foreign lottery scams lose $120 million a year. Taylor says the largest single loss that he investigated was $500,000.
“A lot of people would say this can’t happen to me but they don’t understand that these people find out what motivates you and that’s what they target when they talk to you,” he said.
Since the scams originate out of the country, the con artists are difficult if not impossible to catch, which is why the Postal Inspection Service says prevention, through the seizing of letters and education of consumers, is key.
It’s illegal for U.S. citizens to participate in foreign lotteries so, even if one of the letters is for real, you’d actually be breaking the law by participating.