Contact 6 warns of dying wish, "black money" scam

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Typically when a person is asked for help, they will do whatever it is they can -- but what if something you say "yes" to turns out to be a crime?

A compelling photo of a woman hooked up to a hospital ventilator and seemingly clinging to life pulls at the heartstrings. In reality, the picture is part of an elaborate scam.

"The victim will receive a correspondence from a dying woman (or man) from a foreign country and they are explaining that they need a U.S. citizen as beneficiary to their millions of dollars so they can get this money to a charity. And that's their dying wish," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Maria Albright.

The note explains how unsuspecting victims can help the woman in the photo fulfill her dying wish and make some money in the process.

"The pictures that are sent of the dying people and the death certificates that we received are used multiple times in multiple scams," said Albright.

In another variation of the scam, victims are told they inherited money. Suspects persuade victims, saying a large amount of money will be coming into the U.S. and they just need to take possession.

"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," Albright explained.

On top of that, victims are told the money has been dyed black or yellow to avoid detection -- scam artists may even send a sample. Victims are told they must clean the money.

Postal inspectors call it a "black money" scam and say it has cost victims around the world roughly $100 million. Officials say they have cases in Arizona, Minnesota, New York and other states.

If you receive a suspicious email or letter with signs of this scam, you are urged to report it.

"You will also be helping other people who may be scammed by the same individuals in the future," said Albright.

Postal inspectors say always be aware of emails or letters from people you don't know, especially if they are asking for money.