North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Counterfeit check scams on the rise, warns AG Cooper

Release date: 9/25/2006

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today warned North Carolina consumers and banks to be on the look out for counterfeit checks sent by scammers.

“We want to stop these scammers from getting their hands on your money,” said Cooper. “Don’t fall for their tricks.”

Counterfeit check scams appear to be on the rise in North Carolina, with as many as 30 consumers calling Cooper’s office about these scams each day in recent weeks. Fake checks are most often sent to consumers in connection with phony lottery pitches and scams involving online sales.

Lottery frauds arrive in the form of letters, emails and telemarketing calls and often originate in other countries including Spain, Canada, and Australia, or in other states including Nevada and Florida and often target older consumers. Some use the names or nicknames of legitimate lotteries such as the “El Gordo” from Spain, while others claim to be associated with non-existent lotteries such as the International Shopper’s Sweepstakes or the North American Sweepstakes Lottery.

Consumers are told that they’ve won a prize, as much as $950,000 in recent mailings, but must first wire money to cover taxes, insurance or other fees. In many cases, the scammers include a very reallooking counterfeit check or money order that is supposed to cover these fees. Victims who cash the check and wire the money learn later that the check was a fake.

“No legitimate sweepstakes or lottery operates this way,” Cooper reminded consumers. “It’s illegal in most places, including here in North Carolina, to require you to pay fees and taxes up front on a prize.”

Some scammers also ask consumers for sensitive financial information and then use the information to commit identity theft.

Other scammers respond to people who’ve posted items for sale on legitimate websites such as Ebay and Craig’s List. The scammer claims to be interested in buying the item, then sends a certified check for more than the purchase price and asks the seller to wire back the extra money. Consumers who fall for this scam cash the check and wire the funds from their bank account, only to find out later that the check was a fake.

Here are some warning signs that the check you got in the mail is a fake:

  • You’ve been told that you’ve won a lottery called “El Mundo,” “El Gordo” or from a foreign country such as Canada, Costa Rica or Australia.

  • You’re told to wire, send, or ship money immediately to a large U.S. city or abroad, especially to England, Canada, or Nigeria.

  • You’ve posted an item for sale online and receive a check for more than your asking price.

    • NC Department of Justice y 9001 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-9001 y (919) 716-6400

      • You’re told that you can receive a commission for transferring money through your account.

      • You get an email or telephone request to confirm, update or provide your personal account information.

      North Carolinians who receive what they suspect is a counterfeit check or get a call or letter claiming that they’ve won a phony lottery should not respond. Instead, report the scam to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.

      Cooper’s office works with law enforcement across the country and around the world to investigate lottery fraud rings, and also works to educate banks and wire services operating in the state about these scams.

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