PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Every day millions of letters are delivered to our homes.
A lot of it is junk, but sometimes you hit a jackpot.
That’s what KDKA money editor Jon Delano thought when this letter arrived at his home with a check made for $3,750.
Postmarked in Canada, the enclosed letter said he had won a lottery in the United Kingdom.
Everything looked legit.
“It’s actually a counterfeit check but it does look real,” U.S. Postal Inspector Tammy Mayle told him.
In fact, it’s one of many scams that take in innocent people every day.
The check appeared to be from American Express on a local bank, Huntington Bank.
“It’s a recognized name. They use names that consumers recognize, that consumers trust,” said Mayle.
The enclosed letter was clear with an instruction to call a number where the lottery winner is told to cash the check and wire part of the proceeds to the U.K. in order to collect the rest of the winnings — in this case, at least another $145,000.
“The problem is once you wire the money you can never get it back, so you don’t find out this check is bad until after you wire the money,” noted Mayle. “It could be several months later.”
And then you’re left out of cash, needing to reimburse the bank, and pay all sorts of bounced check fees.
It happens a lot.
“It’s very common. I get hundreds of counterfeit checks a week from different banks in just Pittsburgh,” she said.
She has collected many real-looking checks, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of counterfeit postal money orders.
It’s really easy for any of us to be taken in by these scam artists.
But postal inspectors say, they’re lots of clues if you look at the material carefully to avoid becoming a victim.
Mayle: “Did you ever enter a lottery in the United Kingdom?”
Mayle: “So you’ve never entered a lottery in the united kingdom. that’s the first tip-off.
There are others — like the request to keep this confidential.
“Any time anybody tells you ‘don’t tell anybody,’ that’s a red flag,” Mayle said.
Another tip-off — it’s from another country — and never, ever call the 800-numbers or return any forms.
“Once they confirm that, they’ll sell your name and address off to other fraudsters,” noted Mayle.
Play it safe, take the check and letter to your post office to be checked out, knowing that old adage is still true — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.