Friday, April 6, 2007

BEWARE the latest SCAM

Yesterday, as my husband was going through the mail, his heart skipped a beat as he revealed a US Bank check drawn in the amount of $2,800+ dollars.  Looking at all the fine print on the face and back of the check, we saw no credit terms or disclaimers that would cause us to think this was anything but legitimate.  On the front of the check it had all the microprint security warnings stating that if there was no watermark (which there was) then the check was not real.  So, he begins reading the letter that arrived with the check.  The letter was on letterhead from Anchor Management Company, with an address in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The letter said that this was the last attempt to advise us of reward money we had won in the amount of $55,000+ dollars.  The check was provided to us to "cover the cost of transaction fees" which were necessary to wire the money to us.  A phone number was listed at the bottom of the letter to call so they could instruct us on how to pay the transaction fee, and then find out how to receive our prize money.

I'm a bit of a natural skeptic, so I told my husband that this is the newest scam to hit since the emails from poor children in Africa whose parents had died leaving a great fortune to them if they could only find an American willing to help them get the money at the bank or wire the money to them with a promise of a large cut of the inheritance.  The scary thing about this latest scam is that the check had the name US Bank on it which I recognized as the bank located in my local grocery store.  The familiarity of it made it seem all the more real!  Since it was too late to go to the bank, I decided I'd look up the name of the company on the internet.  I did find an Anchor Management, LLC, but they weren't located in Canada.  I googled the address listed as the business address (223 3rd Avenue North Saskatoon, SK,  S7K OJ5) and came up with nothing except the address was 1 digit off from the city Commissioner's Office (223 3rd Ave...).  At this point, I was pretty sure that the whole thing was a hoax.  I looked again at the check, and noticed that the check had been issued by a different company.  In other words, the US Bank logo on the check was just the design and worth nothing more than the musical notes pattern I have on my personal checks.

Along with my skepticism comes natural curiosity too!  So, after taking my kids to school this morning, I stopped by my local grocery store and asked the US Bank branch manager to verify the legitimacy of this check.  This check was indeed a farce! 

I'm glad that I am naturally curious and already had some foreknowledge of the crazy scams people come up with.  I only hope that this message will reach enough people before they make the mistake of cashing the check.  Don't get the idea that you'll cash the check and be happy with that amount and not go for the full prize waiting to be transferred to you.  What will happen is the check will be cashed, you'll receive the money, you'll either contact the number on the letter and wire them the money in order to receive the larger prize amount (in my case $55,000+) and owe the bank the money because it was no good (and you won't receive your prize money... it was a scam to get the $2800), or you'll think you'll outsmart them by never calling them and spend that money.  If you do the latter, the bank will still come after you when the check comes back as unpaid, and you will be forced to return the money you got.

Please DON'T FALL for this latest scam.  I'm sure many people will because it looks so legitimate and the familiarity causes many to drop their guard.  Having that check in hand ready to cash - especially when things seem tight and this money would help tide things over, or even cover the dream vacation you were considering - seems like a perfect solution.  But, in the end it's NOT REAL and you will end up in an even tighter spot than you were in before and owe the bank at the same time!

If you find yourself a victim of this kind of fraud, there isn't much you can do except learn from it and do your best to thoroughly investigate any unexpected checks that arrive in the mail.  You will want to let your banking institution know what happened, especially if you gave out your account number thinking it was necessary in order to receive your prize.  You'll also want to place a fraud-watch on your accounts with the credit bureaus so they can monitor them for any susupicious activity.  

Hopefully, you found this article helpful PRIOR to receiving any mail like this.�