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Scam Letter Prompts Warning From Sheriff

By Staff | Dec 20, 2007

Area residents are being warned of a new lottery scam being circulated in the past few days.

According to Chief Deputy of the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office, a Palo Alto County resident received a letter informing the recipient that they had won a Sweepstakes and Lottery Draw held on Nov. 30. According to the letter, the recipient was entitled to the sum of $55,000, payable by a bank draft, money order or certified check.

The letter also included a check in the amount of $4,500, made out to the recipient, supposedly to be used by the “winner” to pay a Non Resident Government Tax. The tax payment was to be sent to a tax agent, a Joyce Weber, at an address in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada. The actual tax amount was $2,850, and was to be paid by a money gram or Western Union wire transfer.

Further, the letter instructed the “winner” to contact an assigned claim agent, a Jennifer West or John Crawford, and gave a phone number with a 519 area code, which is in Ontario.

The letter urged the recipient to contact their claim agent as soon as possible for instructions on how to claim their winnings. A John Garfield, Promotions Manager of International Financial Services, Inc. of London, Ontario, Canada signed the letter.

While the letter looked authentic and the enclosed check looked real, Deputy Suhr explained the check was fake.

“The victim was asked to cash that check and pay their “tax” on their prize with it,” Suhr explained, “but the check is fraudulent and the victim cashing it would be responsible to pay the bank back for the cash. Therefore, the victim could potentially lose the entire $4,500 of the check.”

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a letter such as this with a check could certainly appear legitimate, authorities caution, but the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” still applies.

“The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office wants everyone to be aware of these potential scams and take heed when you receive these letters, telephone calls or Internet contacts,” Deputy Suhr said. “If anyone receives a similar letter or call, contact your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible and above all, do not send any money or give out any of your personal information.”

Contact the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s office at 712-852-3535.