Spot the fakes
Many scams involve asking a person to deposit a check and then transmit some of the proceeds to the sender, usually in a foreign country.
In September, a 65-year-old Salina woman lost thousands of dollars in a scheme in which she deposited what she thought was a U.S. Treasury check for $456,000. She then withdrew $170,000 to wire to England. About a month later, the $456,000 check came back as counterfeit.
The woman did not have the funds to cover the loss.
Learn more about how to recognize check scams at Fraud.org.
“We are pleased to inform you that you are one of the declared winners of the North American Shopper Sweepstake held on September 15th, 2008 in the 3th category.”
That’s the opening to a letter — typo and all — that Lawrence residents John and Karen Armstrong recently received. In the envelope with the letter was a check for $3,000 from an existing financial firm in Minneapolis. The letter claims this is the first step toward receiving a total of $100,000.
The Armstrongs knew immediately that they had been targeted in a fraud scheme. A neighboring couple had received a similar letter and check several months earlier.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Karen Armstrong said. “I was pretty mad when that happened to them.”
The Kansas Attorney General’s office recently issued a warning about “a new twist on an old scam,” in which well-recognized business names are used. The recipient of the mailing supposedly is getting a notice of winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes entry.
The recipient is asked to deposit the check in their bank account, then wire money using Western Union or MoneyGram back to the issuer of the check to pay “clearance or processing fees.” The person is asked to call a number with an area code in Quebec, Canada, to release the rest of the winnings.
The Armstrongs’ neighbors who received a letter and check are immigrants from Cuba. They took their mailing to the Armstrongs, seeking their opinion. The Armstrong’s son, Joe Armstrong, a Kansas University student, did some detective work and confirmed the fraud scheme.
Joe Armstrong called the number in Canada and found that “things didn’t match up,” and he called the bank where the check was supposedly issued. The bank said the check that had been sent was from a closed account and that the letter was fraudulent, he said.
Atty. Gen. Steve Six noted in a consumer alert his office issued that the only legal lottery in Kansas is the Kansas State Lottery. And legitimate sweepstakes winnings do not require advance payment of fees or taxes. They are collected by government agencies, not a company.