Bill and Mary Thompson got a check in the mail for nearly $6,000 with a promise of a $250,000 prize from Publishers Clearinghouse. They thought it was too good to be true, and they were right.
"We got a letter in the mail with a check for $5,993," said Bill. The couple knew better than to cash the check.
First, they took the letter (supposedly from Publisher's Clearing House) and the questionable check straight to the bank to show a bank officer.
"The check looked good. The letter looked bad," Thompson stated. The letter is filled with all kinds of spelling errors and lists a phone number to call for instructions on how to claim the full $250,000.
"We don't know what they wanted us to do, because we didn't call the number," Bill said.
The Better Business Bureau said the culprits want you to deposit the check and then wire a portion of the funds back to the culprit to cover so-called fees. The culprit claims to represent a legitimate entity.
"Usually, it's a real company,” notes BBB of West Michigan director of operations Terry Glenn. “The routing number, the account number, actually goes to that company. Often times, the signature is a person at that company. The scammer just stole that company’s information and recreated a real check."
She said under no circumstance will a company send you a check to cash or deposit and then ask you to send money back. Even if money is credited to your account, know that the check will eventually bounce, and you'll be on the hook for the money you sent to the scammers.
Glenn said now the targets are frequently younger victims. "A lot of these scams are now coming on social media. They're texts, they're on craigslist, they're on Linkedin, they're on online job boards,"
"And then the ones that come through the mail like the sweepstakes check, those typically come through the mail and usually find older people are susceptible," she said.
Even if all of this seems like a no-brainer, the BBB suggests you tell your friends and loved ones just in case.
f you do fall victim, you can file a complaint with the BBB.