Fraudulent Notifications

From the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

The IC3 continues to receive reports of letters and emails being distributed pursuant to prize sweepstakes or lottery schemes. These schemes use counterfeit checks that bear legitimate-looking logos of various financial institutions to fool victims into sending money to the fraudsters.

Fraudsters tell victims they won a sweepstakes or lottery, but to receive a lump sum payout, they must pay the taxes and processing fees upfront. Fraudsters direct individuals to call a telephone number to initiate a letter of instructions. The letter alleges that the victim may elect to take an advance on the winnings to make the required upfront payment. The letter includes a check in the amount of the alleged taxes and fees, along with processing instructions. Ultimately, victims believe they are using the advance to make the required upfront payment, but in reality they are falling prey to the scheme.

The victim deposits the check into their own bank, which credits the account for the amount of the check before the check clears. The victim immediately withdraws the money and wires it to the fraudsters. Afterwards, the check proves to be counterfeit and the bank pulls the respective funds from the victim’s account, leaving the victim liable for the amount of the counterfeit check plus any additional fees the bank may charge.

Persons may fall victim to this scheme due to the allure of easy money and the apparent legitimacy of the check the fraudsters include in the letter of instruction. The alleged cash prizes and locations of the financial institutions vary.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

  • A federal statute prohibits mailing lottery tickets, advertisements, or payments to purchase tickets in a foreign lottery. 

  • Be leery if you do not remember entering a lottery or sweepstakes. 

  • Beware of lotteries or sweepstakes that charge a fee prior to delivering your prize. 

  • Be wary of demands to send additional money as a requirement to be eligible for future winnings. 

If you have been a victim of this type of scam or any other cyber crime, you can report it to the IC3 at: www.IC3.gov. The IC3 complaint database links complaints for potential referral to law enforcement for case consideration. Complaint information is also used to identify emerging trends and patterns to alert the public to new criminal schemes.

Lottery scams on TLC

Tomorrow night, October 21st, TLC will be airing a special episode of The Lottery Changed My Life, which will be talking about lottery scams.
Thank you TLC for bringing attention to this issue.

PUBLISHERS CLEARING HOUSE SCAM

Who doesn’t want to win the lottery or a sweepstakes? I think we have all had that “dream” at one time or another. What would we do? How would we spend the money? This is why so many people want to believe that there is a chance that they really DID win when they are contacted by scammers pretending to be with The Publisher Clearing House or other sweepstakes.

The scammers do not just send emails any more. Some are calling their intended victims directly. This is why it is important to protect information like your address and phone number. Do not post this information on blogs or open message boards.

Things that are still the same with this scam is that they will ask you to wire money to them, for legal fees or other reasons. Remember, if the lottery or sweepstakes is legitimate, they could deduct those fees from your winnings without you having to wire them anything.

Doing a Google search on any information that you have on the “sweepstakes representative” that contacts you is one way to try and check things out. Often the phone number that the call came from will be from another country, which is a dead giveaway that this is a scam.

Lottery scam

A typical Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam begins with an email telling you that you have won a large amount of money, and giving you the name of a contact person or agent that you are supposed to work with in order to claim your money. The “lottery winner” will be told that they need to pay a processing fee in order to claim their winnings. For some, these scams become an addiction much like gambling. There is the promise of a large amount of money, and it feels like it is so close, that they continue to send the “agent” more and more money to cover all of the fictional fees and transfer charges.

In other variations, the “winner” will receive a check from the fake lottery agent. They will be told that the check is a partial payment on their winnings, and that to receive the remainder of the winnings they must cash the check and wire a portion of that check, for fees or charges, to the agent. From here, this variation follows the path of a typical Counterfeit Cashier’s Check Scam. The scam victim takes the check to the bank, deposits it and waits for the bank to tell them that the check is clear. Once they believe that the check is clear and has been verified as legitimate, the scam victim then wires the “fees” on to the agent. In about a week, the scam victim is contacted by their bank and told that the check is counterfeit and that they must return the money and are fully liable for the entire amount of the check.


The website http://www.thinkjessica.com/stories/jessica.htm tells the story of a victim of one of these scams.

No, you didn’t win the Pepsi Lottery

Here is an email that got past my Spam filter.

This is to inform you that your e-mail has won you a total sum of £950,000.00 GBP (NINE HUNDRED & FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS) in the Pepsi lottery of 2010. To claim your prize Contact Shaw Hendrick at: shawhendrick-pepsi@admin.in.th

Name:
Address:
Mobile No:
Age:
Sex:
Occupation:
Country:

NOTE: ALL REPLIES MUST BE ADDRESSED TO Shaw Hendrick: shawhendrick-pepsi@admin.in.th
Judith Hodge
Public Announcer

First, you have to enter a contest/lottery/sweepstakes in order to win.  Second, I am going to guess if there was a Pepsi Lottery going on, they would have ads EVERWHERE telling people about it.  Third, if this person really worked for Pepsi, they would have an official Pepsi Company email address.

So how does this scam play out?  I am going to guess that you will either be asked for your bank account information so that they can directly deposit your winnings, but instead will take everything from your account.  The other option is that they will send you a cashier’s check for your winnings, and you will have to send a portion of that check back to them (maybe to cover legal fees for your winnings) but the problem will come AFTER you wire them the money and the bank calls you to tell you that the check is counterfeit and they now want you to pay them back.  You cannot just wait for the check to “clear” or be “verified” because even if the bank told you it was “clear” it can come back as counterfeit a week later . . . I know . . . that is what our former back told us!

For more information on Lottery Scams check out our website or talk with others on our message board.

Scammed couple gets their money back!

This one makes me so happy!

http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/1001/100111sanjose.htm

Feds return money to Bay Area elderly scammed by Canadian con artists
Investigators warn public to be wary of callers soliciting money

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Monday returned $7,000 to an elderly San Jose couple victimized by Canadian con artists who told them they had won a multi-million dollar Canadian sweepstakes.

ICE and USPIS investigators handed the octogenarians a check for a portion of the funds they forwarded to a Canadian postal box over the course of the last several months. The money was ostensibly to pay the Canadian “luxury” tax on the sweepstakes winnings so they could collect the prize. Like many elderly victims targeted in this and similar telemarketing scams, the couple believed the man who called them last year claiming to be an attorney responsible for alerting them about their sweepstakes win. In response to repeated appeals, the couple mailed multiple cashiers checks and packages containing cash to various Canadian addresses.

The check given to the couple this week represented the cash found in a parcel intercepted by Canadian authorities assigned to Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing), a binational effort involving numerous agencies, including ICE, USPIS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec Provincial Police. The case is under ongoing investigation by Canadian authorities.

“This couple is fortunate investigators were able to recover some of the money they lost, but regrettably much of their life savings will probably never be accounted for,” said Mark Wollman, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in San Francisco. “While ICE and its enforcement partners are doing everything possible to stop this kind of fraud, the first line of defense is for people to be suspicious of anyone who calls and asks them to send money.”

This week marks the second time in as many months ICE agents have intervened in a case involving an elderly local resident targeted by Canadian telemarketing con artists. In November, they returned $4,000 to a San Jose woman who sent that sum in cash to Canada after receiving a call from a person claiming to be her grandson. The male caller said he was in jail and needed bail money immediately. Soon after, the woman received a call from a man purporting to be her grandson’s attorney who urged her to send the money without delay. Only later did the women learn that her grandson was not in jail and never had been.

“Sadly, we encounter these types of scenarios over and over again,” said Joseph Adiano, inspector for the USPIS. “While it’s hard to believe people fall for ploys like this, you have to remember the telemarketing con artists are incredibly persuasive and they purposely prey primarily on the elderly, who tend to be more trusting.”

Authorities say the most frequent telemarketing scam involves callers posing as “customs agents” who tell victims they have won the Canadian lottery but must send a “processing fee” or “customs duty” before they can collect their winnings. The fraudulent telemarketers may also purport to be lawyers, government officials, police officers, accountants, or lottery company officials. Investigators emphasize the con artists are very believable and will persist until they bilk as much money as possible from their victims.

Initiated in 1998, the goal of Project COLT is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle telemarketing fraud operations. As part of the initiative, law enforcement officers strive to intercept funds – often cash and cashier’s checks – so they can ultimately be returned to victims. Project COLT investigators also work to prevent further victimization, both through public education and the prosecution of those who commit the fraud.

Since its inception, Project COLT has resulted in the seizure and return of more than $25 million to telemarketing fraud victims in the United States and Canada. Telemarketing fraud has become one of the most pervasive forms of white-collar crime in Canada and the United States, with annual losses in both countries in the billions of dollars. These criminal organizations are heavily involved with international and violent organized crime, including the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, and as such they represent a significant assault on the United States homeland and upon the financial security and livelihood of its citizens.

Project COLT members also have formed partnerships with Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Post Corporation, Federal Express, Purolator, United Parcel Service, DHL and other companies to assist with fund interception and return.

Before sending any money to telemarketers, ICE urges the public to contact PHONEBUSTERS, Canada’s Anti-fraud Call Center at 1-888-495-8501. The staff at PHONEBUSTERS work closely with Project COLT investigators and other law enforcement agencies. More information on the initiative is also available through the PHONEBUSTERS website at http://www.phonebusters.com.

http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/1001/100111sanjose.htm