are required to pay a total sum of $1,995 for the government tax. This amount
is to be paid through Western Union. When the winning is processed, you will
receive your final check a lump sum payment of $245,005. You are advised to
contact your claim agent for further clarification."
local consumer received these instructions in her notification that she had won
a lottery operated from England. The bad grammar indicates it actually came
from a country where English is not the first language. Accompanying the letter
was a check drawn on Bank of America for $4,995. Her claim agent would advise
her to deposit the check and wire the money somewhere to pay the taxes and
insurance on her winnings. Of course, the check wasn't really drawn on Bank of
America and would ultimately bounce, leaving her on the hook for the money she
may wonder how anybody could fall for this scam or any of the many others that
include fake checks as a component. The crooks are business people, however,
and wouldn't keep offering their product if there weren't enough people buying
it. A Consumer Federation of America survey a few years ago found that at least
1.3 million people have been the victims of a fake check scam, with the average
loss exceeding $3,000.
CFA and the National Consumers League have teamed up to educate consumers about
them. According to these organizations:
•Fake check scams remain the number one
complaint filed with the NCL's Fraud Center.
•An estimated one-third of adults encounter
artists target different aged victims with different variations of the scam.
For example, people between the ages of 18 and 30 are much more likely to be
targeted for the work-at-home version of the scam, while those who are 66 and
older are far more likely to be targeted for the sweepstakes/lottery version.
nearly all cases, the victims sent the money to the scammers using a wire
transfer service. At the BBB, we hear from people all the time who have wired
money to Canada, Spain, Jamaica and other foreign countries.
two organizations have released new tips, "Five Things You Should Know to
Avoid Fake Check Scams," to help consumers identify the scam in its
various forms and avoid losing their money. Along with the tips, CFA is
releasing new videos about the most common fake check scams — the
sweepstakes/lottery and work-at-home versions.
and NCL warn that:
someone gives you a check or money order and asks you to send money somewhere
in return, it's a scam.
familiar company name doesn't guarantee that it's legitimate.
check or money order may be fake even if your bank or credit union lets you
have the cash.
the check or money order bounces, you'll have to pay the money back to your
bank or credit union.
money using a money transfer service is like sending cash — once the crook
picks it up, you can't get it back from the service.
mystery shopper job offers are another common fake check scam. One letter a
consumer sent contained the logos of Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Sears, and
included a check purportedly drawn on a local bank — all intended to
add legitimacy to the offer.
Kathy Graham is the President and CEO of the BBB of Coastal Carolina.