I got home last night late, burdened down with worries. I stopped by the mailbox and grabbed the handful of bills there, then answered my cell as I entered to door of the house. While I was talking to my son on the phone, I flipped through the letters until I came to an innocuous looking one, postmarked in Canada with no return address.
To be brief, it was a company called A&G Financial Solutions on East 42nd Street in New York, stating that I was a lucky winner in the first category of Penguin Books Publishing House Sweepstakes and was entitled to $150,000.
Normally I glance at these kinds of letters briefly before they find their inevitable place in the trash can. But with the letter came a very authentic looking check for $3,450.
“Attached is a check,” the letter said, “for the amount of $3,450 available to you in order to pay the applicable taxes and processing fee. The total amount to be paid is $2,800.”
It went on: “Please contact your claim agent Chad Morris at 1-647-995-5532 for more details on how to process your winnings.”
My first inclination was, Wow, this looks real. I shared it with my wife, who didn’t feel the same optimism. Then I started noticing a few details that sent red flags up:
1. The letter was photocopied except for my name and the date, which was typed onto the page.
2. I went on the Internet and could find no reference to either A&G Financial Solutions or Penguin Books Publishing House Sweepstakes. We later looked for the bank listed on the check—PNC Bank of Jeanette, PA–and noticed that there was no street address and the check misspelled the town Jeannette.
But that check–at first glance–still looks pretty authentic. I did some more reading and learned that the scam is that they expect you to deposit the check and use it to send them the $2,800 in “applicable taxes and processing fees.” When the check bounces weeks later, you are held responsible.
I’m not writing this to boast about how smart I am. I was sorely tempted to go along with the scam. Heaven knows we could use the money.
But I am concerned that others are likely to fall into the same net that I almost fell into. The old saying is true, and I urge you to heed it:
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”