Congratulations-- You just won the lottery in a country you never knew existed! It must be true, right? I mean, that is what the letter says, and you are holding the check in your hands. All you need to do is cash the check, and wire a small portion back to cover the taxes. The rest is yours to keep!
It seems too good to be true. Because it is. The check is a fake, even though it may appear to be a legitimate check from a legitimate institution. This is a form of check fraud, and once you endorse the check and deposit it into your account you accept responsibility for the funds. When the check is returned, you will be the one left footing the bill.
There are many forms of check fraud criminals use to get their hands on your money and account numbers. And these crooks get smarter and more creative by the day.
So how can you prevent yourself from becoming a victim? Some key indicators of check fraud include:
• The offer requires you to wire money- a legitimate winning will never stipulate that you wire a portion of your prize back.
• The money come from an official government agency- The US Government does not randomly award prize money. Period.
• You get an offer by phone; even though you are listed on the Do Not Call Registry- This is a key indicator that the person on the other end of the line is noncompliant with Federal Trade Commission Guidelines.
• You have to pay- It is illegal to require someone to pay money or sign up for trial offers to claim a prize.
Many people believe that the police will catch and prosecute the criminals responsible, absolving them of all responsibility, but unfortunately that is not the case. In most instances these scammers are located outside of the United States and there is simply nothing local authorities can do.
A good rule of thumb to keep your money safe? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you have concerns about the validity of a check you received, we are here to help. Bring the check to any of our branches and we can help you determine the legitimacy.
If you think you are the victim of check fraud, or for more information visit ftc.gov.