Q: I'm sending you the enclosed check I received from StubHub! Financial Services. I almost deposited it using the ATM, but then I decided to ask my banker if it's legitimate. It sure looks like a good check. It even says it's issued by Wells Fargo Bank.
The banker assured me it's a scam and the check is a fraud.
I'm 91 years old and I almost fell for this.
A: "Almost" is the key word here. You sound like a woman with keen instincts.
The check you received was accompanied by a letter from StubHub! president Carter Hoper. He informs you that you've won $250,000.
The $2,982 check was sent to cover "both the administrative and clearance fees for your winnings." You were provided a toll-free number and a "local" number to call.
I called the toll-free number and was connected to "the international office of agent Bill Bray." I tried the option to speak with him but was put into voice mail.
I traced the "local" number and found it was in Ontario, despite the address it was provided with being in Stamford, Conn. When I traced the address, I found another business there.
Next, I tried to research StubHub! itself. I was able to find a StubHub located in that city, but it was for a completely different business, StubHub.com.
The last bit of information I had to go on was the address of the Wells Fargo Bank listed on the check. Wells Fargo does exist there, but it's the Wells Fargo History Museum, not a bank.
I contacted postal inspector Linda Walker in the Tampa field office. This particular scam isn't in the Fraud Complaint System yet. But Walker said the use of legitimate business and bank names in these scams is on the rise. She is forwarding your complaint to the Inspection Service Operations Support Group in Chicago, which receives all the complaints and enters them into the FCS.
Fake check schemes are nothing new. The Federal Trade Commission says those plugging lotteries are most common.
Generally the bad checks are to be deposited and the "winner" wires the money to the sender to cover miscellaneous fees. You're assured that when they get their money, you'll get yours.
Most foreign lottery perpetrators operate out of Canada, Walker said. "The phone numbers provided on the scams are often prepaid cellular phones from Canada."
If you were to deposit the check and wire the money, your bank would discover it was no good and you'd be on the hook for the full amount. It makes no difference that you didn't know it was counterfeit.
The Postal Inspection Service has no jurisdiction outside of the United States, yet the bad guys don't always get away.
One of its greatest successes occurred in 1997. An investigation by inspectors in Seattle led to the indictment of 10 Canadians by a federal grand jury for violating postal, Customs, gambling and money laundering statutes. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the kingpin of this promotion in Saskatchewan, Canada. He pleaded guilty to illegally marketing and selling foreign lottery products to Americans through the U.S. mail and by using telephone boiler rooms in Canada. Nearly $12-million seized by postal inspectors was made available to victims for restitution.
If you've been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, don't just toss it in the shredder. File a complaint with the Postal Inspection Service by visiting www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect on the Web or calling your post office. The number is in the blue pages of your local telephone directory. The FTC will also take complaints. Call toll-free 1-877-382-4357 or go to www.ftc.gov.
Action solves problems and gets answers for you. Write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call, (727) 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request. Complaints can only be accepted by mail. Send only photocopies of personal documents. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.