Too good to be true: latest scam offers 'something for nothing'

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

June 30, 2008 - "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is," police are all the time cautioning local residents. And, notification of awards for unsolicited offers with complimentary checks are among the things we, as individuals, are reminded to be leery of.

A savvy Sulphur Springs resident heeded the warning that "you don't get something for nothing" and contacted police about a letter she received in hopes others won't be duped by what, on first glance, might appear to the less wary to be a legitimate offer.

The letter came in a business envelope with the local resident's address handwritten across the front in blue ink in what appeared to be a childish scrawl. The envelope had no return address and a Canadian post mark.

And, unfortunately, cons routing scams letters and mails through Canada is occurring with increasing frequency, as doing so makes them virtually untraceable, according to police reports.

Inside the envelope was a letter on what appeared to be official stationary from "Skyking Prize Awards," which listed a business address in the United Kingdom. The letter was accompanied by what it claims is an "official check" for $3,400 to help with the 5 percent tax owed on the award. The check lists "Expert Towing" of Doraville, Ga., as the holder on the account at Regions Bank Georgia. Also, the check, when photo copied contains "watermark" letters which seem to be "VOJO" or "YOJO" which are detectable only when copied, but not as an actual check as a distinctive watermark.

The typed note attempts to entice the reader to call claim analyst "Richard Smith" to have "two security codes" removed from the tax check so that it can be deposited. Smith supposedly will then, upon being reminded by the caller, "give you the necessary directives on how you can send the 5 per-cent tax to account department" in order to claim the remaining $64,000 of the $68,000 award. Smith then reportedly will process the claim to "ensure you receive your total balance by next week."

Police again warn residents not to fall prey to this scam to get hold of their personal information, which could cost in terms of charges or funds withdrawn from personal bank accounts as well as accounts and charges opened in their name.

As always, be cautious of offers, particularly those hailing cash rewards or items with large cash values which weren't personally sought out. Good indicators a scam is afoot include: addresses for other countries; the reward is to a recipient who didn't enter a drawing or solicit the award; the amount offered; having to cash a check to send back; multiple address as well as names and numbers from the sender; and requests for personal information or access to personal accounts.

As a rule of thumb, when receiving these offers of cash, vacations or other large prizes, whether they be by mail, fax, e-mail, phone or in person, remember these two sayings:

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

You don't get something for nothing.

Now practice saying decisively, "No, thanks.""

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