Does this logo look familiar?
If you received notice that you are the winner of the second place drawing and are entitled to $8.5 million dollars you are being scammed. Recently clients of mine received exiting news that they won the exact same prize. The letters ask you to call an individual named Victor Creed or Drew Ensign. Probably invented names. I’m sure that there are law abiding citizens with those same names. The purpose of the this post is warn persons dealing with those individuals at the numbers in the headline above that they are being scammed by persons posing as company officials.
Click the box below to see how you can tell that this is a fraud.
There are grammar, capitalization, spelling and punctuation errors. The materials are internally inconsistent.
How the Scam Works:
The fraudsters will be extremely happy that you won the prize. Of course nothing in this life escapes taxes. Therefore, in order to actually receive the winnings you must, according to the scoundrels, prepay the taxes. The ways are to be paid does not involve them withholding them from the winnings. Odder still you are not to complete an IRS form and mail in the payment. Instead, they will ask you to do one of many things. I won’t pretend to know them all but here are a few:
Wire Transfers: You are asked to either wire fund from your account to an “agent”. Once the funds are gone it is almost impossible to retrieve them. In rare instances, if the victim acts immediately the transfer may be interrupted. However, if not done within hours the likelihood of success is next to zero. Check quickly with the banker who handled the transaction, make lots of noise and seek assistance of law enforcement.
Withdraw and money transfer services: It was very popular to use legitimate companies like Western Union or Money Gram. The victim is told that the money is needed for customs, taxes, fees, registration, processing, etc. They are instructed to take the funds to a wire transfer center then call back with the information. An individual with an ID and the information can pick up the money at any of the locations worldwide. Nigeria, Jamaica, etc.
Credit Card Loading: You may be asked to purchase a prepaid credit card and the scam can work one of two ways: See Video Below
You are told to deposit the fees in the prepaid credit card then to provide the information to the crooks. Once they have that information they can access all of the money.
You may be told that you are eligible to receive the money to pay the fees on a prepaid card. You are told to purchase a card for $500, $1000, whatever amount they think you can handle. They tell you that you need to call back with the information so that the amounts to cover the taxes, etc. can be deposited on the card. Of course, whatever is on the card is immediately stolen by the thieves.
Another scam convinces you that you will be a personal assistant for a businessman who is about to visit your city and need to open a prepaid card. Give them the info and the money disappears.
Here are a few of the other scams:
You list something on Craigslist or in the classifieds and eager buyer wants to send you money to purchase your item. They send you an official looking cashier’s check for more than your asking price. They instruct you to deposit the check and return the difference by one of the methods listed above. You deposit the check, send them the money and voila their check is a fake. You are out the money you sent plus have returned check issues. They never show up to pick up the thing bought.
Secret Shopper Scam:
Similar to the over-payment scam, you are told to cash the check spend the money and buy a prepaid card. You do so and poof, the check bounces and the funds in the prepaid card disappear.
IRS Scam: IRS calls and tells you to do one of the above techniques to resolve a tax liability. They threaten to sue or imprison you. The IRS doesn’t call. In the IRS scam they ask the victim to load the card, call with information then mail the card to the IRS. Of course, by the time the IRS receives the card the balance has been emptied.
Gram Pa I’m in Jail:
Caller convinces grandparent that they a relative are in trouble and needs bail or legal fees.
Attorney Engagement Scam
Yep, attorneys are also targeted. Attorneys are often solicited out of the blue to handle transactions, collections or escrow of funds. They are asked to cash checks in escrow and to pay the difference less a hefty attorney’s fee. Of course, the check bounces and the attorney is out the funds. I get at least 3 per week.
Some scams provide you with a check that looks real. They do this so that you can cash the check and send in the amount to pay the taxes. In fact, the crooks have become so sophisticated that they are using actual checks and not just something off of a printer. On two occasions I called the company who supposedly issued the checks. Their response was that somebody is forging their checks and that they are getting lots of calls.
I am not looking to handle these cases.
This is a public service announcement to warn the public about these scams.
In my estate planning I attempt to work in protections that family members can use when somebody begins to fall for these scams. If you have been already a victim of a scam your remedies are few and expensive. Recovery is highly unlikely. Usually, the best way forward to ignore the scammers. However, once they have your telephone numbers they can become relentless.
One Extreme Case:
In one extreme case the scammers resorted to impersonating FBI, IRS and local police officials. They obtained a voice over internet telephone line with a local area code. Then they forged the local police letterhead to send a message impersonating an actual high ranking official. When the victim changed the home and cell numbers they called their neighbors to have them hand deliver messages. On one occasion, they had a taxi driver deliver a cell phone to the victim (and asked the victim to pay the driver).