Fraudulent check scam
Updated: Thursday, October 31 2013, 10:07 PM EDT
Rochester, N.Y. - Elaine Livecchi received a letter that said she had won second place in a foreign sweepstakes and a prize of a quarter million dollars. The letter even came with a check for part of her winnings - $4,250.
Livecci was immediately suspicious, but the check made her take a second look at the letter. “Well because it looks real, who wouldn’t call or who wouldn’t do this to get the money.” Skeptical, Livecchi called 13WHAM News to investigate.
The letter instructed Livecchi to deposit the check into her bank account, and then wire $3,850 to the foreign sweepstakes to cover the processing fee and to get her full winnings.
“We all want to be a winner and that’s why this scam has been going on for so long and is obviously successful,” said Peggy Penders with the Better Business Bureau of upstate New York.
“That’s why anyone could fall for this, it does look legitimate,” Penders said scam artists are getting more sophisticated— using the names of logos of real banks.
According to the BBB scams like this cost Americans billions of dollars each year. “Could be a lottery, this one happens to be a sweepstakes, could be a mystery shopping offer but all of these offers come with a check,” Penders said, “it always ends the same, the check is phony.”
Days, sometimes weeks after a person wire the money, Penders said the original first check sent in the mail almost always bounces. Penders said, “Someone that’s already in a bad situation gets into a worse situation because they are liable for any monies that they wire away that don’t exist.”
When the check bounces, the sender is responsible for reimbursing the bank the amount that was wired or spent on other things.
“It’s a scam and it really should be stopped,” Livecchi said, “it looked real and I really don’t want anyone else to try and cash the check.”
The BBB warns that people should never deposit a check or wire money to someone they do not know. Penders said while the checks look legitimate the letters usually contain red flags. Look at grammar, research the company and always ask where did this money come from and why am I getting it.
“They’re asking you to pay a fee for your winnings, that’s the number one red flag,” Pender said, “you should never pay a dime for anything you’ve actually won.”