Lawrence resident Barbara M. Bishop was already skeptical when she and her husband received two recent letters informing them they had won thousands of dollars in two drawings.
“When I first opened them, I was elated,” she said. “A more than $3,000 check is really nice to receive, and of course it’s too good to be true. You look a little further.”
The letters came with two checks of about $4,000 each that asked Bishop to deposit them and wire $3,000 to pay taxes on their winnings.
Bishop didn’t fall for it, and consumer protection authorities say she did the right thing.
“Wiring money is one of the biggest causes of fraudulent activities that we see,” said Gavin Young, a spokesman for Kansas Attorney General Steve Six.
The two letters Bishop and her husband, Kenneth, a Kansas University professor emeritus of petroleum engineering, received included names and logos of major companies like Wal-Mart, Kohls, Sears, Home Depot, Reader’s Digest, Duke Energy Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase Bank and Trustnet, a British financial company.
The letters said the Bishops were winners in two drawings, including a “Reader’s Digest Lotto,” and they were approved for winnings of $50,000 and $125,000.
Young, with the attorney general’s office, said any time a letter or e-mail offers unsolicited amounts of money, it should raise a red flag.
First of all, consumers run the risk of the checks being fraudulent and being on the hook to repay the funds to the bank.
If they wire money, someone can get access to consumer banking information, he said.
“Any time you receive something like that, it’s a no-win situation for the consumer,” Young said.
Instead of attempting to deposit the check, Bishop performed a Google search and discovered warnings about scam artists using the Trustnet name.
Young said anyone who believes they receive a financial scam letter can contact Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s office at 785-841-0211 or the Kansas Attorney General’s consumer protection division at 800-432-2310.
Bishop wants to make sure others who receive similar letters know not to deposit the checks or wire money.
“Don’t trust that good fortune is always going to be a good thing,” she said. “You should be aware that there are scams always. Be sure to check it out thoroughly.”