Exposing impostors

The Postal Inspection Service wants to expose the nation’s impostors.

During National Consumer Protection Week, which runs from March 1-7, the law enforcement agency will raise awareness of scammers who pretend to represent the government.

Impostor scams were the No. 1 form of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year, with victims losing more than $667 million. There were 166,190 reports about Social Security scams, making it the top government scam reported.

Scams involving the Internal Revenue Service are also common, and this year, the Inspection Service has detected an increase in scammers who pretend to represent USPS, often through email messages.

“Government impostor scams prey on the trust that people place in public servants. During National Consumer Protection Week, the Postal Inspection Service is asking the public to report and encourage others to report suspected scams,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.

In many government impostor scams, victims are initially contacted via phone or email by a scammer who impersonates a public agency official. The victim is then informed through misrepresentations and threats that they must remit payment to resolve an issue specific to the scam.

The scammers will often direct victims to remit payment by sending cash or a check through the U.S. Mail. Victims may also be directed to remit payment via gift cards, virtual currency or wire transfer.

The Inspection Service will share tips for USPS employees and customers during National Consumer Protection Week. The agency’s website has more information.

Barksdale said it’s important for everyone to remain vigilant.

“It’s up to all of us to protect each other from fraud,” he said.

Student of the arts

The art student who created the image for the Year of the Rat stamp was honored this week at a special dedication ceremony at the school she attends.

Camille Chew, 28, is a graduate student in printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, also known as RISD. The ceremony was held on the school’s Providence campus.

“[A stamp is] a really exciting place to get your artwork displayed because so many people get to see it and it travels all over the world,” Chew told the Providence Journal.

The stamp, part of the Postal Service’s latest Lunar New Year series, features a rat mask that evokes the elaborately decorated masks used in the holiday’s traditional dragon dances.

Chew told the Journal that she created the image through a digital sketch, then made prints of the mask. Next, she cut out the image and painted it before adding details, including the flowers and tassels that dangle below the rat’s ears.

Antonio Alcalá, a USPS art director, designed the stamp using Chew’s image.

“Imagine how far Camille’s artwork will travel,” said Connecticut Valley District Manager Kevin Clark, who spoke at the Feb. 26 special dedication ceremony. “Stamps bind the nation together. They celebrate different cultures and they show the world who or what is important throughout history.”

The event is one of several special dedications held this month for the stamp, which was released Jan. 11.

One to grow on

Sometimes old-fashioned hospitality is all that’s needed to help the Postal Service generate new revenue.

Just ask Crystal Hernandez, customer services supervisor at the Sapulpa, OK, Post Office.

She recently organized a Grow Your Business Day event at her office to help local entrepreneurs learn about USPS products and services. After speaking with one small-business owner who was using a competitor to ship his merchandise, Hernandez jotted down his contact information and submitted it to the Postal Service through the Submit a Lead program.

A sales representative then contacted the business owner and persuaded him to begin using USPS for his shipping needs — a sale that will generate almost $195,000 in new estimated annualized postal revenue.

“Having businesses come into the Post Office made it easy to reach multiple customers at once, and I had my employees and my materials with me to make it easier to answer questions,” Hernandez said. “I definitely recommend hosting an event.”

Hernandez is one of many employees who are participating in Race for a $Billion, a year-long campaign to generate $1 billion in estimated annualized revenue through sales leads submitted by USPS workers.

The campaign, which will conclude Sept. 30, has raised more than $379 million so far.

To help employees provide leads, the Postal Service offers several programs, including Customer Connect (for letter carriers), Clerks Care (for retail associates and distribution and machine clerks), Mail Handlers (for mail handlers), Rural Reach (for rural carriers) and Submit a Lead (for everyone else, including Executive and Administrative Schedule employees).

The Sales Blue page has more information about each program, as well as an updated ranking of all USPS districts in the Race for a $Billion campaign.

Mary Anderson, small-business engagement director at the Postal Service’s Washington, DC, headquarters, encourages other managers and supervisors to follow Hernandez’s example.

“Hosting a lobby event is a great way to talk to multiple business customers at one time,” Anderson said, adding that USPS offers special materials to help Post Offices advertise the event and attract attendees.

“Working together, we can help make these events a huge success.”