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Consumers warned about new twist on old scam

Don't be fooled by bogus sweepstakes check

12/22/2014, 6 a.m.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler urges consumers to be on alert for a scam that delivers to victims a fraudulent ...
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler urges consumers to be on alert for a scam that delivers to victims a fraudulent “Publisher’s Clearing House” letter informing them that they’ve won a $75,000 “second place prize.” The mailing includes a worthless check for $4,216.74 and a demand by scammers that recipients send their own $2,000 check back to the company.

“No legitimate contest will ever ask you to send money in order to claim a big prize,” said Attorney General Gansler. “The check looks genuine and the prize is appealing, but it’s just another scheme that really is too good to be true.”

The scammer’s letter states that the check they’ve sent is supposed to cover the cost of “processing duty taxes” and that it must be deposited only after calling a “claims agent.” When the check is deposited, the “claims agent” calls back, saying a mistake was made in the amount of “duty taxes” and demanding a return of $2,000. Believing that they’ve still come out ahead, victims then write their own $2,000 check and send it to the scammers. Later on, the consumer learns that the original $4,216.74 check has bounced, and they’re out $2,000 of their own money.

Skeptical consumers may notice that the “check” issued to them does not match the fraudulent name on the letterhead, “Publishers Clearing House.” The name on the check is “Bob’s Market and Greenhouses, Inc.,” which is a real company located in West Virginia. Bob’s Market and Greenhouses alerted Attorney General Gansler’s Consumer Protection Division to the scam and noted that the check in question had been stolen and has apparently been photocopied or forged.

Any Maryland consumer victimized by this scam should contact their local law enforcement agency and file a criminal complaint. Additionally, a victim or anyone else who receives such a letter is urged to submit a complaint to the Consumer Protection Division by visiting http://www.oag.state.md.us/consumer to file online or print out a complaint form. Consumers may also call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 410-528-8662 or 1-888-743-0023.