7 On Your Side: Sweepstakes Scam - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

2/13/06-Tyler

7 On Your Side: Sweepstakes Scam

  Tyler resident Liz Johnson just won $200,000 in the "Gateway Sweepstakes," or so did a suspicious letter she received in the mail says. "I remember entering a sweepstakes over the holidays. But like anybody, you enter and you think it's just nothing else you know," says Liz.
  To claim her prize all she has to do is cash the enclosed check for $2,985, and mail the cash back to the address on the letter. "My husband was ready to take it to the bank," says Liz.
  As we began to tell Liz that this is a scam our dirty rotten scammer called during our interview and "7 on your side" quickly got on the phone. "Can you not identify for me what sweepstakes it is?," asks KLTV 7 Reporter Christine Nelson to a woman who called herself Angela. She tried to give us a convincing pitch that this was legitimate, saying if Liz sent the cash back someone would personally come knocking on her door with the remaining $180,000 in winnings. "It's a scam, it sounds like a scam!," says Nelson to Angela over the phone.
  "There are many things, including the years of experience in dealing with this, that lead me to believe that this is not legitimate," says Brad Russell with Washington Mutual Media Relations. Washington Mutual is the bank where the check was supposedly from. Russell told us critical clues to look for to know the enclosed check is bad.
  The last several digits in the routing number should match the check number itself. In this case the bottom number has an extra digit on the end. Plus Washington Mutual usually posts a mailing address and phone number on their checks. In this case, that section was blank.
  "The smartest thing to do and the safest thing to do is ask. In this case your viewer did that very thing and it's going to save her aggravation in the end," says Russell. We called the phone number at the bottom of the check, days after confronting our scammer over the phone. The recording says the "universal office account has been temporarily placed on hold." It confirms our suspicions that this is in fact a scam. Fortunately for Liz she did not become its latest victim.
  The phone number for "Gateway Sweepstakes" has a 778 area code, which is out of Canada. Many scams originate out of that part of the world because it's difficult for authorities in the U.S. to trace the culprits.

Christine Nelson reporting . cnelson@kltv.com

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