The process of a thought-out scam
Nestor Fernandez, Reporter
April 18, 2012
Filed under News
Thousands of emails are sent daily congratulating people that they have won some sort of lottery in an attempt to scam them. These messages usually appear in the spam folder, but some are sent physically.
On March 21, I received a letter stating I had won $50,500 from the Customers Compensation Lottery Draw in conjunction with North American Sweepstakes Association. The letter mentioned that they had made several unsuccessful attempts to contact me regarding my winnings. With the letter was an authentic-looking check for $3,500 from a law office in Memphis, Tennessee. The letter stated that $2,500 of the winning amount was to be used to pay taxes on the winnings. On March 26, I talked to the receptionist in the law offices of Baker, Donelson, Berman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.
The receptionist informed me that the check I received is a scam attempt directed to getting money from me, while using a phony check made to look like one of theirs. She also stated that the local FBI office in Memphis had been notified and they filed a report.
The letter with the contact information is from a Mr. Jerry Mongoly from the Bronx, N.Y. The letter specifically instructed me not to cash or deposit the check until after I contacted them first for details.
Mr. Mongoly answered my phone call on March 26 and I recorded the conversation.
He asked for my claim number, and I gave it to him. He congratulated me on winning and elaborated about the check.
“Our financial Dept. sent it to help you pay the winning tax…Once you pay the winning tax, we send you the balance of $47,000,” he said. “Sign your check, deposit it in your bank and give us a call back after you have done that,” he said.
On March 27 I contacted the FBI office in Memphis and spoke to a duty agent that could not give out his name due to their protocol. The agent informed me on some of the most common methods used by the scammers.
What typically happens is the victim deposits the check into his account. After doing that, he or she is instructed by the scammers to send a money gram to a specific location in order to pay the applicable fees (taxes). Once the transfer is made, they have your cash in hand and you’ve got a phony check floating in your bank account. Since a check normally takes 3-5 days to clear, it takes at least that much time for the bank to come back to you and hold you accountable for the amount.
The agent also stated that sometimes a check will float around in the Federal Reserve System even longer, until it gets figured out that the routing number or account number or both are invalid.
After the bank figures out that the check is no good, it comes back to the account holder.
If the account holder doesn’t have the sufficient funds to cover that check, then he or she will also be charged applicable overdraft and other fees as well. In the meantime, their money is in the scammers hands, and long gone.
A big target group for this type of scam is the elderly, the agent said. He also said once someone becomes a victim of these scams, the name is given out in a list format, called leads, to other scammers and sold for the typical fee of $1.00 per name. So after they’ve hit you up for your hard earned money, your name alone is worth more money in their pockets.
The FBI has a money threshold of $200,000 for this type of scam. The agent stated that they do not have the means to investigate anything under that amount since there are way too many for their workforce of about 13,000 nationwide agents to handle. Also, you have to be an actual victim, not just a potential one.