Boycott Watch  
Monday, October 12, 2009
Scam Alert - Don't cash that check you got in the mail.
Summary: It's your money. Keep it.
    Boycott Watch received a copy of an August 8, 2009 letter from "Firstfamily Securities Inc." notifying someone of their alleged contest winnings. While scam letters such as these are common, this one letter had a twist - it came with an actual check payable to the recipient. Many scammers ask people to send them money to cover taxes or other expenses regarding processing the claimed winnings, and by now most people realize those are scams. This scam letter too, of course, asks people to send part of the money in the check back in order to get the rest of their alleged contest winnings.

    The letter was well crafted, so many people will believe the letter and just deposit the check, in this case $4,980.00, with hopes the check is real. Boycott Watch President Fred Taub spoke with a Senior Vice President at the bank the check was drawn from, and was told the bank is aware of the scam and does not cash those checks. The banking official requested anonymity, which we respect, said that they probably picked their bank because theirs is known to be a commercial from which large checks are drawn on a regular basis thus the check would not draw attention at banks nationally. People who would cash the check, however, would have to pay the bounced deposit check fee and would have additional problems because they would have to repay any and all monies spent from the fake check, including money they may have sent to the scammers in search of additional funds.

    Boycott Watch investigated the check and found it to have an Ontario address and phone number, but with a Quebec Postal / Zip Code. The check itself looks legitimate and the routing code is correct. Blank checks can be purchased at office supply stores because many companies print their own checks on their computers, which was the case here so the check looks legit, but it is not.

    The moral of the story here is that if you receive a check in the mail and you are not sure who it is from, do not cash it. You need to research such checks before doing anything with it, and you may even want to send those mailings to your local law enforcement agency, the postal service or even the FBI. In this case the scammers probably set up a phone number that is re-routed to Nigeria or some other country where they will get away with their scam in hopes just a few people will send them money. If you fall for such scams, your money will be gone forever and you will end up owing your bank lots of money. Meanwhile, some scammer will get rich at your expense. The reason criminals make these scams is because it only takes a small percentage of people fall for their scam, thus making big money for the scammers. So, if you get something in the mail which appears to be too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Your best move, therefore, is to ask law enforcement to investigate it for you. If such checks are real, the police will gladly congratulate you and give you the check back.

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