Two Things Are Infinite: the Universe and Human Stupidity
I can’t count how many times I went to my mailbox and I find these letters stating I’ve won some kind of drawing for this or that and in order to collect my prize, I have to cash the enclosed check (which is usually written for a couple of thousands of dollars) and wire the money to the address indicated. I can’t help but wonder how many people fall for these types of scams. Either there are a lot of them out there, which is why these scams are not going away, or the scammers are just freaking persistent!
Well, I’m here to educate you on the anatomy of an International Lottery Scam (also known as a wire transfer scam).
1. Obligatory “You’ve Won!” Letter That Sucks You In
It never fails—one way to get people excited is to tell them they’ve won something, especially if it’s a large sum of money. Some people don’t even do any research on the company who is sending these letters. Often times the letters come from non-existent businesses from a foreign country. Most people won’t go online and look up the company in question. They may be too excited to see that they’ve won.
In this letter, you will be told that you’ve won a large sum of money and enclosed is a check that will cover the cost to pay the taxes that you, as a non-resident, will have to pay upon claiming your prize. “Winners” are told to cash the check in their own bank and wire the funds via Western Union or Money Gram to a disclosed address. Once the wire has been completed, the company will release your “prize”.
Unfortunately, when the “winner” goes to cash this check, they are unaware that they are actually cashing a check that will bounce and their account will be in the negative as a result.
2. A Check for Several Thousands of Dollars
This check that accompanies the winning letter will always look legitimate. It will have a real financial institution listed and an actual address written on it—even the routing numbers will be legitimate. Some checks even go so far as having the proper watermark for the institution on it. What won’t be legitimate is the money. When you cash the check, you’ll get the money, so you may believe that everything will be fine. You’re in for a big surprise when you go to your bank a few days later and find that you’re in the hole for the amount of money that you “deposited” from that check. Some people have even been detained or arrested after their banks notified police of suspected forgeries.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind if you ever come across these sorts of situations is to do your research. Maybe you did put your name in for a lotto drawing a while ago and you forgot about it. Always research the name of the company, any mailing addresses listed in the correspondence, telephone numbers, or names.
It is not recommended to email or call the numbers or email addresses listed in the correspondence though. Why? You don’t want to fall victim to identity theft or have your contact info being stolen for other criminal acts. If you are ever uncertain about something you receive in the mail, you can always contact your local police station and make inquiries.