The check looks real. And the letter - a notice that the lucky recipient has won $125,000 in a shoppers sweepstakes - seems authentic.
But one local resident was smart enough to realize that it wasn’t.
Somervell County Sheriff Greg Doyle said scams - especially those targeting the elderly - are abundant, although very few have been reported in the Glen Rose area.
“We haven’t seen very many scams like these around here,” Doyle said. “In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen something like this.”
The “winning notice” was mailed to a Glen Rose resident and stated that she was the declared winner of a “Shoppers Sweepstakes” held on April 5, then gives the serial number of the winning ticket. It goes on to say that the winner was selected “through a random computer system ballot drawn from over 50,000 names.”
“We have made several unsuccessful attempts to contact you regarding this winning,” the letter states. “You are therefore entitled to the sum of $125,000 U.S. dollars.”
Attached to the bottom of the letter is a check for $3,875 issued by City
Financial Inc. in Sarasota, FL. But a closer look at the check shows that the authorized signature is unreadable and the word “eight” is spelled incorrectly.
The letter also states that the check was issued to help cover the expense of the “applicable government taxes” of $2,725 to be paid by either Moneygram or Western Union. The winner is also instructed to call a claim agent for further instruction before attempting to cash the check.
When the number was called, a man with a heavy accent answered the phone and claimed to be “George Stanley,” a lawyer for City Financial. He said the winnings would be ready to be picked up the next day, but not before the tax money was mailed to his office.
When questioned about why winners first had to send in money to claim their prize money, “Stanley” got defensive and said if the recipient didn’t want the money, it would be given to the charity of their choice. When questioned further, he hung up and refused to answer repeated calls.
Authorities say those who fall for these types of scams often mail the tax money, and later find out that they are stuck with a bogus check. The scammers then cash the money order and are never heard from again.
Chief Investigator Darrell McCreavey said anyone who receives something like this should take it to the sheriff’s office before sending any money.
“We’ll check it out for them,” he said. “But it’s important to remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”