Letter promises to pay unclaimed money, actually wants to steal your identity

Consumers have reported receiving letters from government-sounding agencies, such as the Federal Acquisition Agency or American Entry Exchange. The letters claim that the recipient has a large amount of unclaimed money waiting for him or her, or that the recipient has won a sweepstakes.

BBB warns consumers not to respond to these letters, as they are most likely an attempt to steal your identity.

Here is some sample text from one of the letters:

Unclaimed money scam 300x224 Letter promises to pay unclaimed money, actually wants to steal your identity

There's no such thing as free money. Always look for the catch.

Financial Acquisition Agency has identified $2,342,000.00 in non-dispersed funds that are currently pending payment, but still remain unclaimed.

Financial Acquisition Agency has the legal right to inform you that your name has been cleared as eligible recipient for these funds. I’m glad we were able to reach you in time!

As per promotion regulations and applicable federal and state laws mandate that all such funds must be paid by certified bank. PLEASE NOTE: This may be your Final Notification.

A complete accounting of these funds has been audited, verified and prepared for you. There is no mistake. All directives will be rushed to you at the mailing address indicated as it appears on the Transmittal Authorization below providing that you are able to certify:

1. You are indeed the addressee for whom this message is intended
2. You are a legal resident of the United States of America
3. You are at least 18 years of age as of the date of your signed certification.

Final payment is dependent on satisfactory completion of claim requirements and verification of eligibility/submission.

This letter contains a number of red flags, which BBB warns consumers to watch for:

  1. Spelling/Grammatical Errors. Any communication from an official government source will be checked for grammar and spelling mistakes. If you receive a letter from a government agency that doesn’t seem to have a strong command of the English language, be wary. Many scammers are in foreign countries, and not native speakers.
  2. Questionable government affiliation. Scams like to play on your trust of government agencies. They will employ names that sound similar to real agencies and images that look like government seals. Some sophisticated scammers will even use the names and seals of actual government agencies. Always check the name of the agency that is asking for your personal information, and contact that agency using phone numbers, email addresses or mailing addresses that you are able to verify. Never rely on the contact information provided in the letter.
  3. A request for personal information. The IRS might need your bank account information to direct deposit your tax refund, and any number of government agencies may legitimately need your Social Security number. However, they will rarely contact you out of the blue to request such information. Before providing any personally identifiable information, confirm that you are talking to who you think you are talking to and that the information is actually needed.
  4. Promises of big payouts. Of course I want more than $2 million! Few people would turn that down, which is exactly what the scammers are hoping for. Before responding to any communication, be it via email, letter or phone call, take a moment to ask yourself whether this is too good to be true. Where, exactly, do you suspect this $2 million in unclaimed money came from? If it’s supposedly the winnings of a sweepstakes or contest, do you remember entering? Money doesn’t fall from the sky.

For more information about these types of scams and tips for avoiding them, read this Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert.

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About Amy Fowler

As an investigator for BBB, Amy reviews local businesses who have been accused of bad customer service, poor ethics or downright illegal behavior. When she finds examples of bad business practices that harm consumers, she reports them to the public. Sometimes those reports are simply added to a company’s BBB Business Review so consumers can make informed decisions. In more serious cases, she will write a press release for the BBB website, alert the local news media or write a post for watchyourbuck.com, the blog for BBB Serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. She started her career in customer service while earning a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. She moved on to work as a reporter and editor for several local newspapers before coming to BBB. She is passionate both about writing and giving people the information they need to make smart choices for themselves and their families — two passions that blend perfectly in her work at BBB.