With breakout at end of story.
The woman knew there was something strange when a check for almost $5,000 arrived in the mail.
She was the object of a double-edged scam.
Brenda Schreffler knows if something looks to good to be true, it’s probably not true, so when she received a check from the “Warner Cable Shared Service Center” for $4,975, she was skeptical.
With it was a letter from Nationwide Claim Center Financial in Toronto
telling her she was the “lucky winner in the sweepstakes lottery draw” and had won $450,000.
The check she received was drawn on the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, and it was to cover taxes and insurance to send her winnings. She was to deposit the check and send the claim center a MoneyGram for $4,975.
Adding to the mystery was that she signed up for Time Warner Cable not long ago. “I thought I got into a sweepstakes through that. Normally I wouldn’t be taken at all.”
She took it to Canton police, then the Stark County prosecutor’s office and the FBI, and then contacted Time Warner Cable.
The assistant prosecutor she spoke with told her the check had a watermark.
“It looks real,” she said.
Time Warner doesn’t run lotteries, said Kevin Pratt, security manager for the cable company.
The same day Schreffler called, Pratt received a couple of other calls, and an alert from the corporate office in Stamford, Conn., about the check scam.
“It’s a pretty routine thing,” Pratt said. It’s the second or third time in about nine months the scam has been run. The checks have all been from Mellon Bank, “so it’s probably the same people.”
Scam artists “pick a brand name that everybody knows” to make victims comfortable, he said.
Not only would Schreffler have lost the $4,975, but “ff you deposit the check, it comes back to them (for insufficient funds) with your banking information on the back” and they can empty your bank account, Pratt said.
“We will contact our customers directly if we’re running a new special” but “unless you call us, we don’t ask for things like Social Security numbers and addresses. We just don’t do it.”
Pratt said if people are concerned about a call from his company, “Hang up and call Time Warner Cable.”
Reach Canton Repository Business Editor Pat Kelley at (330) 580-8323 or e-mail: email@example.com
Avoid Sweepstakes Scams
- Never respond to sweepstakes offers that require you to buy something first. A genuine “free prize” has no strings attached and should not require a purchase.
With legitimate sweepstakes, you do not have to pay anything to collect your prize. If you have won merchandise, such as a necklace or car, the sweepstakes promoter will pay the delivery charges. If you win cash, the sweepstakes promoter either will withhold taxes from the cash award or report the winnings to the Internal Revenue Service.
- Legitimate sweepstakes do not need your credit card number to award a prize. Never give your credit card number over the phone to someone you don’t know. The number may be used to make unauthorized charges to your account.
- Be wary of offers that entice you to call 900 numbers to claim a free gift. The charge for the 900 number will likely cost you more than the prize is worth.
- Read the fine print. Remember, few, if any, consumers who respond to prize offers actually win anything worth as much money as they spend. The majority lose money.
Source: Consumers Union