NEW YORK, NY -- Schemes come in all different types and sizes. From the grandparent scheme, to the work-at-home scheme, con-artists are always trying to get your money. But this scheme preys on your emotions.
It's a dying wish. You get a letter about a dying person who wants to give their money to charity. It sounds like something nice to do, but it could end up costing you big bucks.
A compelling photo of a woman, hooked up to a hospital ventilator, seemingly clinging to life. In reality, the picture is one piece of an elaborate scheme.
U.S. Postal Inspector Maria Albright said, "The victim will receive a correspondence from a dying woman from a foreign country (or man) and they are explaining that they need a U.S. citizen beneficiary to their millions of dollars so they can get this money to a charity. And that's their dying wish."
The note explains how unsuspecting victims can help the woman in the photo fulfill her dying wish and make some money in the process. Postal inspectors say they've seen the same pictures used multiple times in multiple schemes.
Another variation on the scheme is when victims are told they inherited money. Suspects persuade victims a large amount of money will be coming into the U.S. and they just need to take possession.
Albright said, "Once the money is shipped to the United States it miraculously is held up in customs, then they have to pay all sorts of fees; thousands and thousands of dollars in fees to get this money released."
There is more. Victims are then told the money has been dyed black or yellow to avoid detection. Schemers might even send a sample. Suspects tell victims they need to pay to clean the money.
Postal inspectors call this a "black money" scheme and say it cost victims around the world roughly $100 million. Officials say they have cases in Arizona, Minnesota, New York, and other states.
Some advice: if you get a suspicious email or letter with signs of this scam - report it. They say your report may keep other people from being schemed in the future.
Postal inspectors say always be aware of emails or letters from people you don't know, especially emails asking for money.
Postal Inspectors/WFMY News 2