People from across the country are contacting the Better Business Bureau about notices they received in the mail claiming they have won a substantial amount of money from a foreign lottery. Enclosed with the solicitation letter is a legitimate looking check for thousands of dollars to "help pay" fees involved with claiming the money. The lucky lottery "winner" is instructed to contact their "agent" before cashing the check, to activate their account. Then they are asked to deposit the check and send the money by wire transfer immediately to the so-called lottery company in order to receive the remainder of their winnings, which they are told range anywhere from $405,501 to $675,000.
Everything goes smoothly at first. The banking institution listed on the check is a real bank, and the account number and routing number on the check are real. The "winner" is able to deposit the check in their bank account without a glitch. However, a serious problem arises weeks later when the lottery "winner" is notified by their bank that the check is counterfeit, and the victim is told they must repay the bank the thousands of dollars they withdrew against the bad check.
While there are numerous variations to this scam, they all have one common goal – to get the targeted victim to cash the check and wire the money to the scam artist. Whether you are offered payment for something you're selling or being paid to do work from your home, if you are asked to cash a check and then wire money back, it is a scam!
The BBB along with the National Consumers League suggest that consumers keep the following in mind:
- There is no reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back;
- Just because you can withdraw the money from the bank does not mean the check is good, even if it is a cashier's check;
- If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a branch in your area.