Hundreds swindles out of tens of thousands of dollars

A new scam is preying on an unusual target, families with relatives behind bars, anxious to get them out.  Already hundreds have been swindles out of tens of thousands of dollars.

One victim was Tracy Branson.  Getting her husband out of prison was her dream.

"Up front was going to be $5-thousand dollars. But, then of course, he stated through time, there could be other costs incurred"

Tracy is talking about the con man who took $30,000 of her money promising in return he would get her husband Greg released.  Authorities say there has been a rise in a variety of new scams targeting families with loved ones behind bars.

U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor says, "The con men that we see in these cases make all sorts of crazy claims including that they are lawyers, that they are investigators, that they have political connections to
influential people - using those stories they gain the trust of the victims and ultimately get their money."

In this case, the con artists gave Tracy's daughter, Caitlin, false hope that one day her dad would be free again.

Tracy Branson says, "She was making plans for the rest of her life that would involve her Dad you know, she
carried this on for the next few years, through college the things he was going to see her do… which in turn made my hope even stronger because I wanted to believe not just for me - but for her as well."

On the day Tracy was expecting to go to the prison and pick-up her husband, she was told by the suspect the release was called off at the last minute.

 "Caitlin completely broke down and she knew she wasn't going to see her Dad that day.  That was the hardest… definitely the hardest day"

For almost a year, the suspect in Tracy's case strung her along, until she decided to do some investigating on her own.

"I was done doubting, I had to know one way or the other so I made a phone call and it was that one simple phone call that totally turned everything around."

Postal investigators started working Tracy's case and the suspect was quickly arrested.

Taylor says, "These people have so little hope of getting their loved one out and the con men realize this and look to seize on that little ray of hope and wrap themselves around it."

It may sound like common sense, but authorities recommend you never give money to anyone without first checking them out.

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