Protect Yourself and Your Account from Scams

I received a FedEx overnight package including a check for $4,696.77 with my name clearly printed on it. The check looked real and had a watermark. The letter claimed that I won $94,000 in the EuroLotto and stated the $4,696.77 was sent to cover the taxes on the winnings. The scammers used FedEx to bypass the United States Postal Service. The scam proclaimed that I was a major winner in the EuroLotto. In order to claim the prize, I was instructed to apply for a European tax identification number and fax personal information to a lawyer in New York City.

I did some snooping around on the Internet. The lawyer in New York City did not exist. The website for the EuroLotto did not exist. I found a few blogs from people who had fallen for the scam, cashed the check, and had to repay the funds. Some people cashed the checks at check-cashing stores. If they couldn’t repay the funds, they faced jail sentences.

Never fax any personal information unless you have initiated the contact and you know the other party. Never remit a fee to claim lottery winnings.

Never cash a check you receive from a lottery or drawing in which you didn’t enter. The check may have a watermark and look real, but it is most likely a bogus check and a scam. Your bank will freeze your funds. In addition, the bank might close your account if you deposit a fraudulent check. If the cash the check, the bank can have you arrested if you cannot pay the funds back. If I cashed the check and wired $4,696.77 to the EuroLotto, I would have been out of $4,696.77 for the check I cashed and $4,696.77 for the amount I would have wired for a total of $9393.54.

Keep your banking and personal information confidential. Never give out your checking account numbers or credit card numbers.

For more information about scams, visit these Web sites:
1. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-internet.htm.
2. Fair Credit Billing at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fcb.htm.
3. Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org/.
4. American Bar Association’s Safe Shopping Web site at http://www.safeshopping.org.

Remember, playing cross-border lotteries is a violation of Federal law. Yes, it is illegal! Don’t pay for winning something. That’s a dead giveaway of a scam. Never fill out online or paper prize forms. The scammers use the information to add your contact information to more scam lists.

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