Over 200 victims lost thousands in scam involving "stimulus gift cards"

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- How would you like to pay $100 for a $1,000 gift card? It's a scam through which people lost thousands of dollars -- and the mastermind faced jail time.

"In this case, they were required to submit $119 dollars, in particular, and they would be getting a $1,000 dollar gift card. That gift card in turn for expense -- whether it`s grocery shopping or putting gas in the car -- any expense you deemed necessary," U.S. Postal Inspector Charles Conliffe said.

A letter made the offer. It says "Due to the economic hardship consumers are experiencing at this time, your household was selected to receive a stimulus gift card in the amount of $1,000."

Victims were told to fill out an acceptance form and send in the activation and processing fee.

"I think once they saw the work stimulus it triggered a reaction, I guess subconsciously, where they said 'if I can get this help, I can do it. So why not send a nominal fee if I can get the help in return,'" Conliffe said.

Postal inspectors say the scam preyed on people in need.

"People who are desperate, if you are in a tight situation, people are more likely to fall in or be cajoled into something that seems too good to be true," Conliffe said.

More than 200 victims lost $50,000 in this scheme.

Inspectors say consumers should be alert.

"If you`re being solicited to give funds to get funds - I would stay far away from it," Conliffe said.

As always, research is key.

"If you don`t do your homework or do any background check you are susceptible to being a victim to anything," Conliffe said.

There is no such thing as a stimulus card as advertised in this case. If you see a solicitation offering a stimulus gift card, be wary.

The con artist behind this scam was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail. She was also ordered to pay back $20,000.