While most of us have become accustomed to tossing away varying amounts of junk mail, what you receive in your mailbox has become more sinister as the offers have moved from legitimate items or services for purchase to opportunities to scam you out of your savings.
According to Sheriff Tim Rodenberg, his department has recently received a number of complaints about an apparent mail scam that claims to have some free money in store for the recipient.
“We’ve received a number of calls regarding this,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “It appears that, whatever the scam is targeting, it’s at least Clermont County if not the entire tri-state area.”
The alleged scam in question is a variation of a well-known foreign lottery style scheme that claims the recipient has won a foreign lottery or contest, but must pay to receive the funds. In many cases, the money requested is described as a tax or processing fee.
“This is a letter being received from a company called the ‘international processing center’ out of Vancouver, British Columbia,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “It looks like a letter and says you’ve won an award that was held recently in Dublin, Ireland, saying you are one of the lucky winners. It says you won a lump sum payment of $52,690, to be credited to your account number. It says it’s been published through Readers Digest and Publisher’s Clearinghouse and online and various places all over the world as part of a promotion conducted monthly.”
True to form, this letter, said Sheriff Rodenberg, offers to send the money as soon as you provide some of your own for processing.
“To claim your prize money of $52,690, you have to pay the tax and administrative fees and call the claim agent,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “She is apparently an agent of ‘Lotto World.’ An assistance check for $2,690 is enclosed to help pay for the tax and administrative fees, but I guess you have to send additional money, and after you pay your winning fees or processing fees, you’re supposed to get the money.”
The hook, said Sheriff Rodenberg, is that what appears to be a check that is enclosed with the letter may well prove a trap. From what Sheriff Rodenberg described, the check is only a portion of what must be paid to receive the winnings. The rest of the funds are the responsibility of the “winner.”
“They give you a deadline of about a week, and if you don’t reply, all of the prize money is returned to charities,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “It’s signed by a Diane Hoss, prize director. Some of our citizens have reported getting this, and also with this letter they have enclosed what looks like, and they call, an official check, drawn from the Washington Mutual Bank. We have referred many of these cases to the FBI, and this looks like more of a nation-wide if not international scam. There’s not much local law enforcement can do about it but warn our citizens, whatever they do, to not send any money or personal information in response to any of this by mail, phone calls or internet.”
Sheriff Rodenberg said that, in cases like this, the unwitting winner may lose more than just the additional money they add to what is on the enclosed check. Personal information provided with the return check may well open your bank account to attack.
“What happens is, if you put this money in your account or cash it even, and that will then, when returned to the company, they might have personal information on the check from the citizens who cashed it, like the account number stamped on it,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “That allows them to then pull some sort of technological scam to get into your account. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If this happens to you, it’s probably best to call the FBI.”
If you have any questions about this particular letter, or wish to report a scam, call the Clermont County Sheriff’s Department at (513) 732-7500.