Imagine this: you get a letter in the mail that says you have won millions of dollars in some sort of lottery sweepstakes. Most people would look at that letter and throw it out. But what if the letter was accompanied by a legitimate check? Would you be more apt to believe that it was true?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been receiving many complaints about fake lotteries. There have been so many reports that they issued a press release warning people about these scams, a federal offense of mail fraud.
According to the complaint center, people are receiving letters saying that they have won a lottery of some sorts and included is a check. They then instruct the recipients to use the check to pay related fees in order to receive the rest of their winnings. Unsuspecting recipients cash what they believe to be a real check and then send a personal check as directed.
Unfortunately, the checks that are sent with the letter are not real. After the check bounces, that amount is taken back out of the recipient's bank account and they are left with nothing but liability for that money.
In response to the growing concern, the complaint center has suggested a few ways to avoid getting scammed. Don't send money in order to receive more prize money. Also, if you don't recall entering a lottery that you've apparently won, it is probably too good to be true.
The FBI continues to work with federal and local law enforcement to put an end to these types of crimes. They encourage people who have been victims of various schemes to report them so that others will not make the same mistake.
Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center, "Fraudulent Notification Deceives Consumers out of Thousands of Dollars," Intelligence Note, 29 November 2010