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Missing Persons Fraud

The missing persons scam is one of the more unusual types of fraud schemes. It preys on those people whose loved ones have disappeared. For example, Postal Inspectors once investigated a promoter who was running a "recovery bureau." The bureau attempted to collect $20,000 on the basis of fraudulent claims that it knew the whereabouts of a California man's missing former wife and children.

The Californian traveled to Michigan based on the promoter's promises that he could find and reclaim his family in that state. The man became suspicious when the contact he was sent to see in Michigan demanded a $20,000 payment before he would provide any information about the missing former wife and children.

Subsequent investigation by Postal Inspectors revealed that the ex-wife and children had never been in Michigan. The promoter had no information about the missing family members. In reality, he had only received a routine notice from a private investigator who was seeking assistance in finding the ex-wife and children.

The Postal Inspection Service warns families with missing children, spouses or other relatives, or friends, to be cautious about persons who demand money for information leading to the whereabouts of those missing persons. When such information is made available for sale, law enforcement authorities should be contacted to assure the validity of the claims being made about the whereabouts of missing persons.

You should also consider contacting your local Better Business Bureau, the District Attorney's Office Consumer Protection Unit, or the Postal Inspection Service to determine if they are investigating any missing persons "recovery bureau" for possible fraudulent activity.

If you have been victimized in a fraudulent missing persons scheme in which the U.S. Mail was used, or if you have received a suspicious solicitation in the mail which offers to provide information about missing family members or friends for a fee, report your experience to your local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector.