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Hagerstown Police warn of mail sweepstakes scam

October 23, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

A $4,100 check received by a Hagerstown man this week, presented as part of a sweepstakes prize, likely is part of a classic scam, the Hagerstown Police Department said.

"It's a take on an old scam that's been around for a while," Sgt. Paul Kifer said.

Typically, the scammer says the recipient has won an international lottery and sends a fraudulent check, Kifer said. Or, in a variation, the scammer might say the recipient has inherited money that was invested in another country by a relative. The scammer asks the recipient to deposit the check and send a money order back as a way to get around taxes and fees on the winnings or inheritance. By the time the bank discovers the check is no good, the money order has been processed and the money sent is lost, Kifer said.

Thomas Hammett, 81, said the letter he received was on letterhead from a financial group in New York and said he had won a cash prize of $650,000. Included was a check for $4,100.15 from a sausage house in Texas and instructions to contact someone about paying various fees.

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Hammett said he realized the mailing was a scam, but he was concerned others might not.

"They make them look very real," Kifer said. "A lot of times, they will give you a phone number, and it's very real-sounding."

He recommended that residents who receive such notices, whether by mail, e-mail or phone, should ask themselves whether they played a lottery in the place where the notice originates.

"If it's too good to be true, it usually is," Kifer said. "And, in this case, no legitimate lottery organization is going to send you money to have you pay it back to them to get around any kind of regulations. It just doesn't happen."

Anyone who receives a check and is uncertain about its legitimacy should contact local police before depositing it, Kifer said.

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