Tune into suburban Chicago's WBIG radio, AM 1280, at 12 p.m. on Wednesdays, and you'll hear a typically wacky radio show. There are the familiar on-air contests, with callers guessing the answers to questions, and a big wheel which is spun for prizes.
But the hosts carry guns.
"Don't Fall for It" is a show hosted by two federal agents from the United States Postal Inspection service. In between the witty banter and the giveaways of DVD's and other prizes, they offer advice on how not to be victimized by mail-driven fraud.
"It's often said that fraud is the only type of crime, where the victim is a willing participant," says David Colen, Chicago's assistant Inspector in Charge and one of the program hosts. "We want to give as much information to the masses as we can."
Perpetrators of I.D. theft and various other brands of fraud have a special affection for the U.S. Mail. Whether those criminals are simply stealing checks from mailboxes, or conducting prize scams designed to obtain money or personal information, the postal inspectors have learned that the best weapon to fight their crimes is education.
"We enforce over 200 federal statutes," says Inspector in Charge Thomas Brady. "But mail fraud is certainly one of the biggest types of crimes that we investigate."
Each show features a mix of live guests, and an on-air contest called "true or fraud" that asks callers to identify scams versus legitimate offers sent through the mail. There is also a "mystery guest", who calls in on each program.
"We're a little different from other law enforcement agencies, because we have a show like this!" Brady says. In fact, the Chicago agents believe their show, which is funded by fines levied against convicted felons, is the only one of its kind in the nation.