COLUMBUS — Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor is warning Ohioans that an international mail fraud “fake check” scam has resurfaced in the state that could lead to thousands of dollars in personal losses.
Criminals are mailing letters with counterfeit checks instructing recipients to deposit the check and return the amount as a processing fee to “obtain” non-existent settlement or sweepstakes money. The correspondence appears realistic as if from legitimate businesses, including insurance companies, to perpetuate the scam.
“In the end, there is no settlement or sweepstakes money available for the consumer,” said Taylor, also director of the Ohio Department of Insurance. “Instead, those who cash the fake check could be obligated to pay their bank the entire amount plus additional fees.”
One Ohioan recently received a letter stating their “winning settlement in the amount of $75,000 has been approved for payment” with a nearly $2,000 check.
Last year, an Ohioan was directed to deposit a $3,950 check then pay a $3,600 fee to receive a supposed $250,000 in winnings from the “consumer sweepstakes promotional draw.”
Additional vocabulary used in the past to entice consumers includes “lottery sweepstakes millions,” “sweepstakes draw,” and “consumer promotional draw.”
Taylor advises consumers take precaution by following these steps:
• Question the validity of correspondence containing spelling or grammatical errors.
• Checks from companies you do not do business with are likely fraudulent.
• Contact the company listed on the check to investigate its legitimacy.
• Second guess correspondence offering a prize or money in exchange for a fee or specific personal information, such as bank account or social security numbers.
• Settlements, sweepstakes or contests requiring you to send money to a post office or drop box or an overseas address before claiming your prize is likely fraud.
Ohioans who believe they have been the victim of an insurance fraud scheme should call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1527.