Scam in the Mail

Thanh -- December 5th, 2007

This week, I received a piece of mail addressed to me at my home. It was a regular, plain, white envelope with my address printed from what looks like a home deskjet printer. There was a letter and a real check enclosed (click to see copy. Sorry the check didn’t scan correctly). I had won $250,000! Or not. This letter is basically a scam. Obvious to me, but maybe not to others.

I called the Better Business Bureau,

BBB of Central Virginia
Phone: (804) 648-0016
Fax: (804) 648-3115
701 E. Franklin Street, Ste. 712
Richmond VA 23219-2332 ‘

And the gentleman was very polite. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that the BBB can do. These international lotteries are illegal, but there is so many of them, and I imagine tracking them down is so difficult, that I was told by BBB that the best fight against them is education. So here is my effort to educate my neighbors and community; if you get a letter and a check like this, its a scam and they are trying to take your money.

This particular letter came from Canada (postage from Canada), the letter’s header is from a Canadian address, the check is from a Bank in Pennsylvania, and they say that “the money” is from an Australian Sweepstakes account. My fiance and I theorize that this is how the scam works:

  1. You call this “Ron Clark” mentioned in the letter who tells you to deposit the check into your personal checking account
  2. “Ron Clark” also tells you that the sweepstakes deadline is coming up so quickly that you can’t wait for the check to clear, that you must pay insurance for the “safe delivery” of the winnings immediately through Moneygram or Western Union.
  3. So now you’ve send “Ron” your monies, the check you deposited later bounces because its from an empty account or whatever, you never get your $250,000 and you’ve lost the amount you paid for “insurance”.

I wonder how many others have received this letter. I believe the BBB guy that this happens so often (probably under so many names, addresses, etc that aren’t real) that its easier and better to educate then spend the resources tracking these people down (who might never be found). But is there anything else you all can think of that can be done? Other agencies to report to? Other thoughts? I guess this isn’t very different than those emails I sometimes get that are claimed to be from some country generally in Africa where a noble or ex-military person has died and his wife, attorney, or whoever is seeking your help to free up his money that is in some foreign account and apparently I’ve been identified as the only person who can help them.

5 Responses to “Scam in the Mail”

  1. Kyle says:

    Just for the heck of it I did a reverse look up of the phone number and it came up with a cell phone in Ontario, Canada (I opted not to pay the fee to find out the person’s name). The fact that the phone number was not an 800 number was just one of a million “red flags” in that letter.

    These types of scams are getting harder to pull off now that banks don’t have to send the actual checks to the feds. Now they can just e-mail a digital photo so you can find out if the check is valid in a day or two.

    You ought to call Ron, out of curiousity, just do it from a pay phone so he can’t collect your phone number or do a *69.

  2. Justin says:

    I used to think I was battling email scam, but now I don’t.

    Say you get a “personal information” email from PayPal. You click the link and it looks like PayPal’s website. If you copy the link into the browser, you can see the real website/server it sits on. I’ve found scam sites sitting on paintball retailer sites and many other types of websites.

    I’d navigate through the host site, find a contact and email them, telling them that someone who has access to their server is hosting a scam site embedded in their harddrives. I’d even send them the link.

    I’ve done that 5 or 6 times, never hearing back from the site owner. So that either tells me that the host site owner is in on it, or the email is answered by the evil doer himself.

  3. Thanh says:

    Justin, I also have made reports to host site owners, like you have done. I hope to think that they are too busy to respond to reporters and are doing their best to clear out the scam.

    A few years back, I received an email that looked like it came from a national bank, I forget which one. But it was definately from one that I had no account with. It made claim that I had to click a link and enter in some information to verify something, I forget exactly what. Anyway, I took a close look at the link to identify the host site. Strangely, the site belonged to one of my old Americorps crew leaders who had just started a dog sledding company, (there’s no way I can forget a company/ website name like that. hehe). Of course I emailed her to let her know what I found, and she responded with telling me that she and host company had already identified what had happened, that someone had hacked into the site, and the host was in the process of fixing the problem. I never followed up further to find out how it was actually resolved. I’m sure they removed the scam site, but I wonder now if the scammers were ever found out and charged, or if it was something they felt couldn’t be found out and just moved on.

  4. MAW says:

    I received one of those letters. If I remember correctly, it was from the UK. I could be wrong. I had won an Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer or I could take the $45,000+ in cash. I knew it was a scam, but I called the number anyway. The girl told me it was legitimate. She told me to deposit the check then call her back. I asked her what to do after that and she would not tell me. I can’t remember how much money she wanted me to send her.

    I looked up the bank that the check was drawn on on the internet. I called them and they told me the check was fraudulent. I called the girl back and asked her how she slept at night. She acted dumb. She still claimed there was nothing wrong. I told her that she had better sleep with one eye open from now on.

    I called the sheriff’s office and they also told me that there was really nothing they could do about it. Great!

  5. Jeff says:

    Another popular technique aimed at service providers is the “I only have one large check to pay a number of vendors” scam. We’ve gotten a few of those through our contact us page.
    The person claims they’re getting married later in the year, the father-in-law has given the happy couple one check for a large amount… but unfortunately now he’s out of the country and out of reach. They want to book us, so they ask for contact info so they can send us the check… and they’re willing to pay a large premium for our “troubles.”
    Then we’re supposed to write checks, using the theoretical balance, to the “wedding planner” etc.
    We’ve never responded to the original queries, but one did go so far as to FedEx us a check anyway, with a note inside asking us to e-mail an @gmail account when we received the check.
    Just for fun I called the Hburg police, and they said as long as we don’t cash the check no crime has actually been committed. Which I suppose does make sense.

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