Scammers prey on families of prison inmates

A cruel new scam is preying on families with relatives behind bars.

It's cost victims, like Tracy Branson, tens of thousands of dollars.

A conman took $30,000 from Branson. He promised to get her husband, Greg, released from prison.

"Up front was going to be $5,000. But then, of course, he stated through time there could be other costs incurred," Branson 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," says U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor.

The day Branson was supposed to go to the prison and pick her husband up, the conman told her the release had been called off at the last minute. Branson says the scam left her young daughter crushed.

"She was making plans for the rest of her life that would involve her Dad, you know," Branson says. "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."

For almost a year, the suspect in Branson's case strung her along. She finally decided to do some investigating of 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," Branson says.

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

""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," Taylor says.

Authorities advise never giving money to someone without checking them out first.

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