My co-worker Jeff was recently selected to be the recipient of mail fraud. An envelope arrived without fanfare in his mailbox. Inside were two things, a letter congratulating him on winning the "Shopper's Sweepstakes" and a check for $4,980.00.
Waterhouse Securities Inc.
March 20, 2009
We are pleased to inform you that you are one of the declared winners of the SHOPPERS SWEEPSTAKES held on JANUARY 5th, 2009 in the 2nd category. Ticket serial NO 498561256 drew the lucky winning NO 49-55-77-80-02.
We have made many unsuccessful attempts to contact you regarding this scam. You are therefore entitled to the sum of $250,000.00 US Dollars. This is from total prize money of $5 Million US dollars that was shared and presented among the other 20 declared winners. Please note that all the participants were selected throug a random computer ballot system drawn from over 50,000 names.
We are giving away $5 million dollars to people picked from 50,000 name?. That's an average of $100 per name!
Your claim number is WA/SDH - 0101 and has been assigned to our North American Claims affiliate. To expedite the procesing enclosed is the check of $4980.00 US dollars which has been deducted from your winning. The sole purpose of this check is for the payment of applicable Government Taxes on your big winnings.
The tax amount is $2995.00 Dollars (TWO THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED NINTY FIVE DOLLARS) to be paid either by MoneyGram or Western Union.
Please do not attempt to use this check until you call. You are advised to contact your claim agent immediately for further clarification as indicated below within 5 business days.
Lewis McGregor, 1-416-827-3905
For years I've heard of scams in which a foreign agent buys something over the internet and sends a phony check for payment. These agents sometimes don't actually even care to get your collector plates, the actual heart of the scam is that the scammer wants to get a bit of the check sent back to him in cash (to cover handling charges, tax or insurance).
1) A scammer could ask you to visit and review a restaurant, then send payment with a fake check, asking for 25% returned for "payroll tax".
2) A scammer could solicit photographs of local landmarks, paying with a fake check but asking that you return 40% in cash for developing the film.
3) They could ask you to buy and read a book and send the book review to them. They could send a fake $1,000 check and ask you to forward your review and $500 to their typesetting service.
For some reason, giving you a task to perform, as if they are hiring you, makes the check more believable than sending it out of the blue.
The real swamp trap of a fake check is that it might actually post real money to your account. However, it won't last. When the bank determines the check is no good, they will come after you for the money.
Jeff's check came out of the blue. The letter let him know that this check was just a fragment of his entire $250,000 winnings, and that they were sending it first so that he could wire them $2,995.00 back to settle the taxes for his big winnings.
They asked him to send it via Moneygram or Western Union.
The whole scam falls apart if you realize the check is a fake, which might happen if you deposited the check into an ATM without careful consideration.
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April 3, 2009.