On Tuesday, a REGIONAL member brought a letter and a check to one of our offices. It was quickly determined that it was an example of a Lottery Scam.
Below is the full text:
UNIVERSAL TRUST AND FINANCE INC
INTERNATIONAL CLAIM DEPARTMENT
2065 KING STREET MORRISTON
ONT N0B 2C3
JANUARY 08, 2010.
NOTICE OF UNCLAIMED WINNINGS
CLAIM NUMBER: UTF 447734
This is to find out why you have not claimed the money which you won in the SUPER SEVEN CONTEST.
You are one of the second category Winners of the money Super Seven Contest held on the 3rd of OCTOBER 2009.
A ticket with serial no.461209 posted in your name drew the lucky winning numbers. This entitles you to the lump sum winning of $250,000.00 to be sent to you once the taxes on it has been paid.
Enclosed is a check of $4885.00 which was deducted from your winnings.
The sole purpose of this FIRST CHECK is for the payment of the applicable GOVERNMENT TAXES on your winnings.
The tax amount is $2985.00 to be paid through MONEYGRAM found at every WALMART store or any WESTERN UNION in any convenient store.
You will receive your tax information from your Claim Agent TOM HOWARD.
Please do not attempt to use this check until you call. We urge you to keep this winning CONFIDENTIAL until your claim has been processed and your cash remitted to you as this is part of your security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by non participants taking advantage of this program.
You are advised to contact the claim agent immediately for further clarification as indicated below within 10days.
You are to contact him at 1-647-686-5687 as soon as you receive this letter.
The check was indeed made out to the member for $4,885, and as far as I could tell (I’m still learning how to do it), the fractional routing number agreed with what was in the MICR line. I haven’t had a chance to seen the actual item yet, but I’m willing to guess it was printed on legitimate stock with all the security features intact.
However, there are a number of clues that you’re looking at a Lottery Scam. Ready?
- The address given for the company is in Canada. There’s a reason “Canadian Lottery” is one of the terms used for this type of scam.
- The check is drawn off Phoenix Air, a cargo airline based in Cartersville, GA.
- You can’t see it here, but the signature did not look anything like “Morris Lexington.” In fact, it looked like “Paul” and something that ended with a B.
- They’re talking about a large cash prize in a contest the recipient never entered. You have to buy a ticket to win a lottery.
- When you pay taxes, you pay the government. You don’t use Moneygram or Western Union to wire the funds to a private organization.
- The spacing and grammar are weird throughout the letter.
- When you win any sort of lottery, applicable fees are taken out beforehand. They don’t send you money only to have you wire it back to them (even if they did, wouldn’t you also be taxed on the original $4,885, too?).
- They’re instructing the recipient not to tell anyone about their winnings. This is a massive warning sign. They don’t want their potential victims talking about the letter because they don’t want any better-informed people telling them, “Um, that’s a scam.”
There are probably another ten things I could point out, but if you know what to look for, the fact that you’re being told you won a Canadian contest you didn’t enter in the first place will tell you everything you need to know. Point #8 above is a very common feature of these scams—the attempt to isolate the potential victim from outside advice. This tactic seems to really target the elderly, who often aren’t as “hip” to the latest fraud trends. Make sure you inform your family and friends about these scams, especially those who don’t use the Internet or pay much attention to the news. Had they fallen for it, our member would have lost at least $2,985, and possibly more. Nobody needs that in their life.
Incidentally, I Googled the phone number in the letter. Apparently the owner of that phone is also trying to hawk some computers and/or parts in online classifieds. That probably goes to show something about online classifieds, but we’ll get into that another time.