Residents be warned: Check, lottery scams are on the rise locally

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By Alice Du Pont

A few months ago a local mother of five got a letter in the mail announcing that she had been selected as a lottery winner. The check enclosed was for about $7,500.

"She was really happy. The letter instructed her to deposit the check in her account and send them back $1,500 to process her winnings. Five days later she found that the check was a fraud and now she owes the bank $6,000. When the check is a fraud, the bank treats it as if it’s a loan and the customer is responsible for repaying the money. When an individual makes a deposit, the bank has no way of immediately knowing that a check is a fraud," said Officer LaRhonda Gordon of the Quincy Police Department.

Troubles like those experienced by the woman are occurring all too often in Quincy, according to Gordon. The frauds cross gender, racial and age lines. In the past year Gordon has investigated more than a dozen cases. And, she said, people are losing money with no way to recover their losses because there is no one to prosecute.

"If they took the time to read the letter they would know it's a scam. If you have won money you shouldn't have to send money to get it," Gordon said, adding, "If they are notified by e-mail that they have won a lottery, it's not true. The lottery never notifies anyone by e-mail that they have won. Plus, if they haven't played a lottery, they can't win."

Still residents are urged to call the Quincy Police Department at 627-7111 or stop by the station at 212 East Jefferson St. with the check if they are suspicious. She said older people are more likely to question checks and letters announcing winnings.

"In tough economic times, it's easy for people to become victims. These letters usually have a reply date of five to seven days so people are eager to get what they think is a windfall. Those few days are what the scammers rely on," Gordon said.

Usually, the checks will be less than $9,000 because banks will automatically hold checks that exceed that amount for five or more days.

"We've noticed an increase in these types of crimes around income tax time and during the summers months. My advice is that whatever citizens do, do not deposit those checks in their accounts, at least not until we or some other law enforcement agency has had a chance to look at them," she said.