There are many scams going on the Internet, on the phone, and in the mail. You must always be wary of any offer that truly sounds “too good to be true.”
Remember, all the technology in the world isn’t going to help keep your information secure if you personally give out your account information to the wrong people.
Victim Overpayment Scam
This scam mainly preys on people who may have posted items for sale on Internet web sites. However, it is not exclusive to the Internet. The victim will receive an email, letter or phone call offering to purchase the item from someone claiming to live outside of the country. The deal is that they will send a cashier’s check for considerably more than the item sale price with the agreement that the victim immediately send back a check for the difference.
These cashier’s checks cannot be determined as fake by the financial institution until the check actually bounces. At the time the cashier’s check bounces, the financial institution then debits the account for the full amount of the cashier’s check. The cost to the victim is the amount they send back to the supposed buyer per the agreement plus any funds they may have spent believing the cashier’s check funds were in the account.
Some warning signs include:
- You receive a check for an amount that is larger than the agreed sum;
- You are asked to deposit the check in your account and wire the difference back to the sender;
- You are asked to wire the money from a location other than your financial institution;
- The recipient is in a foreign country.
Scam operators are using the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe.
Consumers, lured by prospects of instant wealth, are responding to the solicitations to the tune of $120 million a year, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The Federal Trade Commission says most promotions for foreign lotteries are likely to be phony. Many scam operators don’t even buy the promised lottery tickets. Others buy some tickets, but keep the “winnings” for themselves. In addition, lottery hustlers use victims’ bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.
The FTC has these words of caution for consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery:
- If you play a foreign lottery-through the mail or over the telephone-you’re violating federal law.
- There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none.
- If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment “opportunities.” Your name will be placed on “sucker lists” that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.
- Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.
The bottom line, according to the FTC: Ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country, give it to your local postmaster.