In October, the victim received a letter from the company Northwest Winner's Circle Corp. stating he had won a prize of $285,856.
Enclosed was a check for $6,500 to help offset the cost of taxes and a “small clearing bond.”
The letter instructed the victim, that even if the check is put on hold by the bank, the payment would have to be made immediately.
After contacting the number on the letter, he was directed to wire the fee and he did; a portion to Brooklyn, N.Y., and a portion to Canada.
Unfortunately, the funds were released to the victim before it was found that the check he deposited was counterfeit, leaving him responsible for the $6,500 check.
And of course, he did not receive the $285,856.
According to the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Protection hotline, this type of scam is popular and comes in various forms, but it usually boils down to two things: The recipient is informed he or she has won a large sum of money and in order to receive that money, the recipient must pay some sort of fee, usually taxes.
That, according to the attorney general's office, should be the first clue it is a scam.
In legitimate lotteries and drawings, fees are taken from the winnings, not required up front.
Being asked to wire the money through services like Western Union should also set off warning bells: Wired money is untraceable.
Consumers cannot rely on the fact that someone answers the phone as a proof of legitimacy. Many of the numbers are routed through a foreign country, which is why this type of scam is so difficult to stop.
In the Northwest Winner's Circle Corp. case, a man did answer the phone, but did not state up front the name of the company.
When asked the name of the company, he answered, “What company are you looking for?”
According to the attorney general's office, many of these con artists work multiple scams. They wait for the victim to reveal the information and they know they are untouchable, at least by the U.S. government.
Another Gallipolis resident recently turned a similar letter in to Gallipolis City Police after finding out the attached check for $3,950 from Tate Financial Inc., was counterfeit.
The letter stated the resident had won $250,000 in the Australian lottery, but at closer inspection the return company logo address is Ontario, Canada.
“I may be 85 years old, but I'm not dumb,” the resident said, who took the check to the bank for information, figuring it was a scam.
Most scam letters use words like “urgent,” “last chance” and “final” to spur victims to act quickly.
According to Molly Tarbett of Ohio Valley Bank's Loss Prevention, con artists will often tell victims to be secretive when cashing to the check. They will often lie to tellers about the check's origin for fear of losing their winnings.
Recipients of similar letters can bring the check and letter to the main Ohio Valley Bank office's loss prevention department to help determine their legitimacy.
Should recipients deposit the check, receiving the money does not necessarily mean the check has cleared. Tarbett said banks are governed by the CC Funds Availability regulation, which only allows the bank to hold checks for a specific period of time.
Losing money should not be the recipient's only concern. He or she could face civil or criminal charges, especially when dealing with large amounts of money they are unable to pay back.
The act of participating in a foreign lottery at all is illegal, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency issued the following warning on its website: