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P.O.'s P.D. Goes CSI on DVD

I spent some time over the weekend reviewing some free DVDs produced by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is giving away the discs in a campaign to call attention to the dangers that lurk at the intersection of online crime and the U.S. mail.

Video by U.S. Postal Inspection Service

The Postal Inspection Service produced seven "Delivering Justice" DVDs in all, which are available free to any U.S. resident. You can grab a copy of any or all of them by calling 800-STAMP-24 (800-782-6724) or by ordering them online. I took the latter approach, and the DVDs arrived at my home three days later, free of charge.

The educational videos touch on areas of fraud that all consumers should be aware of, and for the most part they are fairly well done and effective. All of them feature dramatizations (some apparently based on true stories) in the style of "CSI:Crime Scene Investigation," only without any dead bodies. The crooks are different in each film, but the good guys are fictional postal inspectors Alan Goddard (played by Robert Pralgo), Michele Niece (Leigh Hill) and "Inspector in Charge" Bill Davis (Joe Washington).

As professional as the videos appear, however, I couldn't help but snigger or scoff at a couple of scenes. Take, for instance, the campy dialogue from "Work@Home Scams: They Just Don't Pay!," wherein our hero Niece is staking out a P.O. box rental joint when she spots her dorky target picking up his goods from an international reshipping scam. Niece's partner is stuck in traffic and can't make it to the scene in time to be her backup. Niece decides it's now or never, and the two trade terse words over their cell phones:

Niece: "Alan, he's making a move. I'm going to stall him."

Goddard: (Distressed, honking horn). "Michele, do not move! Follow protocol and wait for me."

Later in the story, we meet a supposed innocent caught up in this web of trickery: an attractive stay-at-home mom who gets yanked out of her tidy suburban home by the local sheriff's office for unknowingly participating in the reshipping scam. For my part, I had trouble swallowing the idea that somehow she didn't know exactly what she was doing, and that the whole "it-sounded-neat-because-taking-care-of-the-baby-all-day-is-boring" routine wasn't just some kind of an act.

In "Web of Deceit," one of the series' longer DVDs, a phishing-scam artist arrested by the postal inspection guys has quite possibly the worst fake British accent I've ever heard. It even wavers into an Aussie twang at one point (this crook's faux-Brit tongue is even worse than Kevin Costner's gringo-ized portrayal of Robin Hood).

Anyway, like I said, they're great educational videos -- especially for those who are fairly new to these types of scams. Even if you are the type of person (like me) who sits through television nail-biters like "24" and proceeds to groan at every plot hole or Kim-ism, you'll still have something to grin about.

Other DVDs in the series include "Identity Crisis," about ways to avoid being victimized by identity theft; "Nowhere to Run," a primer on international telephone-fraud scams and how Caller ID and other technologies are helping scammers seem more convincing; and "Dialing for Dollars," about boiler-room scams and other forms of telemarketing fraud.

I can't seem to find the link to one of the DVDs I ordered previously called "Long Shot," a warning about the dangers of foreign lotteries. If anyone can find it, please drop me a line or leave a link in the comments section. There is also a DVD called "All the King's Men" on the site now that wasn't available when I ordered the others.

By Brian Krebs  |  June 5, 2006; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  Fraud , From the Bunker , Safety Tips  
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