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Money Scam Attempted Locally

By Staff | Aug 24, 2010

RUTHVEN – The old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is” has never been more appropriate when it comes to a letter making the rounds in the area. For a Ruthven resident, being suspicious of something that  sounded too good to be true paid off.

The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office is cautioning all area residents to be  extremely cautious about answering letters and mail that promise financial windfalls after an incident last week in Ruthven.

According to Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Lynn Schultes, Ruthven Postmaster Tim Brinkley was alerted by a customer last Wednesday, Aug. 18, of a letter she had received in the day’s mail.

The letter “congratulated” the woman as a lucky winner of a “Consumer Promotion Draw” from the United Kingdom, and informed her she had won $100,000.

In the “final notice” letter the woman received, a check made out in her name, in the amount of $4,000 was enclosed. The letter instructed the woman to deposit the check in her bank, and the to call a Payment Handling Officer for further instructions.

However, that’s where the scam comes into play, authorities say.

Had the Ruthven woman followed the scam, she would have called the Payment Officers, who would  have instructed her to wire money back to the firm in the United Kingdom that issued the check to cover “tax clearance fees” on the winnings that amounted to $2,850. If the woman would have wired the money to the firm for the so-called “Tax Clearance Fee,” that transfer would process and clear well before the $4,000 check she  had received originally was determined to be no good by the local bank, and the woman would have been out $2,850 with no recourse.

“In this situation, there would have been no ‘lucky winner’, just a person out $2,850,”? noted Lt. Schultes. “They were never a winner of anything. It was all just a scam letter, a fraud.”

Authorities remind residents that a true prize award is something that a person receives without any strings attached – you shouldn’t have to pay shipping and handling, taxes or insurance fees to receive a prize.

“You should always be cautious of any phone call or mailing that you receive claiming you have won something,” Schultes said. “Whether it be money, a camera, a car or any other item, if the caller or sender requires you to pay a fee, pay taxes or provide your social security number or bank account numbers, be very cautious.”

Since the woman did not act on the contents of the letter, there is little authorities can do other that to warn other area residents to be wary and alert that such scams are active and always out there, waiting for someone to let their guard down.

“Just remember, if you have really won something, it will be provided to you with no strings attached,”?Schultes said. “If you receive a letter or phone call like these, tear it up or hang up as that is the only way that you will really end up a winner.”

Anyone who receives such a letter or phone call is urged to contact their local Postmaster with the letter their nearest law enforcement agency or the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office at 712-852-2323.