Another Check in the Mail, Another Scam

June 19, 2008
The Better Business Bureau receives calls every day about scams involving bogus checks. The latest scam letter was sent to a Manchester consumer who contacted the BBB thinking that he may have won a contest which he had entered at his local Home Depot store.    Not so, of course.

The letter says, "Your Home Improvement Grant of $39,000 was deposited into an escrow account pending claim."  The outfit sending this scam is using the name "Counsumer Trust, Inc." with an address listed as P. O. Box 155, New York, New York.
Enclosed with the letter was a check for $3,975.00 which, according to the letter, is a "a deduction from your total Grant amount of $39,000 to assist you in paying the necessary fees and taxes."

But the check, like similar checks mailed to consumers under many pretexts, is bogus. The letter sent with the check usually says, as this one does, "call the number below before cashing the enclosed check."  When you call, the scammer will usually instruct you to deposit the check and then go to either Western Union or Moneygram and wire an amount of money to cover "necessary fees and taxes" to a person connected with the scammer.  (The scammer is often very accommodating and happy to tell you the location of your nearest Western Union or Moneygram store.)

The BBB's advice is simple:  never wire money to someone you don't know personally and trust completely.  Once the money is wired, it's gone and never to be seen again.  The check that has been sent to you to cover the amount you are asked to wire will bounce within days after the money is deposited, once your bank learns that the check is bogus.  Your endorsement on the back of the check will leave you responsible and owing your bank the amount of the bogus check.

To convince the consumer that he may really have won a contest that he entered, the letter received by the Manchester consumer states, "grants were also awarded to a short list of candidates randomly selected from Readers Digest and Publisher's Clearing House databases, (and) by ballot from Home Improvement Stores and other participating Department Retail Stores." 

BBB president Robert Shomphe says, "One thing you can be confident about it that this scam has no connection to the Readers Digest or Publisher's Clearing House databases, and has not selected you based on any contest you may have entered at your local home improvement store.  The scammer is simply using this claim as a ruse to make people who may have entered a contest think that they may actually have won."