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Commentary: Holiday warning: New twist on old scam

With the holidays upon us, scam artists are also upon us to try and separate you from your money.

They use the phone, email, postal mail and the internet to trick you into sending money or giving out personal information.

Though most people do not fall for the scams, unfortunately there are many who do.

Here’s a good example.

I received a call from a lady recently who contacted me at the urging of a friend. She had received a letter in the mail, accompanied by a check for $4,500. The letter said that she was the winner of a sweepstakes and that she had won $250,000. The $4,500 check was an “advance” on the money she had won in order to pay for the processing fees. All she had to do was cash the check at her bank and then wire the $4,500 to Jamaica.

She was also instructed to call a provided phone number and give her bank account and routing number so that her winnings could be electronically deposited into her account.

When I informed this lady that it was a scam, she so wanted to believe that it was real. She actually refuted my explanation and advice to tear the check and letter up. She thought that because she had received an actual check, then it had to be true.

I was able to finally convince her that it was not true. Good thing that her friend talked her into contacting me first.

The classic, all too common sweepstakes scam is designed to separate you from your money. But we have been seeing an increasing number of victims.

You receive an official-looking letter, claiming that you won a foreign sweepstakes or lottery. Accompanying the letter is a check that a lot of the targets think is real. It’s not. It is a counterfeit check and the trick is to get you to deposit the counterfeit check into your bank account and then wire the money to the bad guys before your bank discovers that the check is not real.

When this happens, your bank will hold you responsible for the full amount. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot that the police can do. Today’s technology makes things easy for us, but it also makes it easy for some scam artist in some foreign country to rip you off.

Just remember the age-old saying; “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Throw away any letters saying you won a sweepstakes or lottery and tear up any accompanyin

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