Here’s the scenario: You go to your mail box and find a letter, usually without a return address, and usually sent from someone outside the country. You open the envelope and inside you find a letter and a check.
The letter says you’ve won some sweepstakes and all you have to do is make arrangements to pay the taxes to some foreign taxing authority you’ve never heard of. But, not to worry, they’ve included the first installment of your winnings, which, as it just so happens, is enough to pay the foreign taxes plus several hundred left over.
The “foreign taxes” are usually around $3,000 (it varies), and the “first installment” is around $4,000 (this also varies).
What could it hurt, even if it’s a scam, you’re up, right?
Don’t cash the check!!!
Instead, write “SCAM / FRAUD” in the signature line of the check and across the front of the envelope, then drop it off at your local post office. The postmaster will pass it along to the postal investigators and hopefully catch the bad guys.
So, how does the scam work?
You contact the “tax agent” (who is probably in another country, so tracking them down may be nearly impossible), they get your banking information so they can “deposit the rest of the money” and tell you to deposit the check, and wire the “taxes” to them. You do, and everything is fine. Or so you think.
The sucker who fell for this before you suddenly finds their account is missing $4,000 (again, this amount varies). They tell their bank this is fraudulent (which it is), and their bank pulls that money back out of your account, so you’re now short the $3,000 (or whatever the “tax” amount was that you paid). You’ve learned your lesson and won’t do it again.
Then, several checks are posted to your account in varying amounts from other suckers who fell for the scam. You notify your bank of the fraudulent activity and hopefully get all your money back. It’ll take a while. Until you do you might not have any way to pay bills or buy food.
And all because you cashed a check.
Can it really happen? My parents have gotten two of these letters in the last month. Luckily they were suspicious and didn’t cash the checks.
So, now you’ve been warned. Don’t be greedy, there’s no such thing as money for nothing. And, of course, if this just saved you a boatload of money, hassles, and embarrassment, you could always show your thanks by making a donation toward paying off my mortgage.