Opinion – 2/9/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS

 From the 02/09/07 issue of The Panolian        

Repeat this warning: ‘If it sounds too good …’

Charlotte McCarty brought us the latest example of an if-it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true-it-probably-is get-rich-quick scheme Thursday – a really legitimate-looking check made out to her husband, Richard, for $9,857.27.

Accompanying the check was a letter from – get this – "Lottery Resources Management and Payment Verification Centre of N. A., of Toronto, Ontario" – informing Richard "of the release of 2007 Recover Care Merchants Point of Sale Prize Pool Lottery held" yada, yada, yada … that the $9,857.27 was the first of 36 checks in that amount he would be receiving monthly.

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Of course Richard was skeptical, but that check looked so real that he called the telephone number in the letter and reached a Mr. Yang who asked, among other things, if Richard could pay the taxes due on his winnings.

Richard’s reply, half-joking, was "This is legit, right?"

Whereupon Mr. Yang hung up.

Richard called him back, and Mr. Yang said that Richard had insulted him with his question. Then Mr. Yang put Richard on hold and never came back.

Charlotte figures that scamming would have occurred if Richard had somehow been talked into paying those "taxes" by providing necessary credit card or bank account information over the phone. She checked with the bank in Olathe, Kansas on which the check was written. Yes, it was a fraud, a bank spokesman said. The company on which the check was written is a legitimate bank customer, but somehow the scammer stole one of their checks, reproduced more and mailed them all over the country. The Kansas bank representative said they had heard from every state in the union.

Another scam victim who received a check with a similar a letter promising lottery winnings was actually able to cash her check at a Tunica casino. The trouble came when the check was returned to the casino, which had recorded the bank information provided by the check cashier. The casino used the information to freeze her bank account. The check recipient either had to make good on her "lottery winnings," most of which had already been spent or face prosecution.

These scammers are good. This "lottery winnings" letter accompanied by an authentic-looking check is just the latest version of a sophisticated pigeon-drop by mail. After people have become sufficiently warned enough to know to stay away from this version, the scammers will come up with another version that will catch another round of the unwary.

Just remember that with any proposition you encounter – by mail, by phone – especially by phone, by email – really especially by email, or even in person, especially a stranger person, IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS!!

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