Check scam makes way into area

Thursday, April 9, 2009

OREGON COUNTY -- A rural Oregon County woman is warning others in the area that there is a check scam going on and they need to be leary of receiving unsolicited checks in the mail.

Dennis and Linda Walters live near Couch School on County Road 261. They received three different checks in the mail recently amounting to nearly $13,000.

"All three checks were made out to my husband. The first check came about a month ago," Linda Walters said. "It was for $4,500 and was from G.E. Group Inc."

The information with the check informed the Walters that they were winners in the second category of Sweepstakes and Lottery Draw that was held Dec. 1, 2008.

"We didn't enter any type of lottery or drawing or anything else," Linda said.

The letter went on to state because they were winners they were entitled to $450,000 that would be paid to them by a bank draft or certified check.

"Enclosed is a check for $4,500 which is deducted from your winnings. The purpose of this check is to assist you for the non-resident Government Service Tax (GST). Taxes must be paid in full before winnings can be legally released. Your tax amount is $2,980 U.S. dollars and must be paid by Money Gram," the letter said.

The Walters were advised through the letter to send the Money Gram to a city in Canada.

"I took the check to our local bank, Simmons Bank in Mammoth Spring. They investigated the check and it ran through as good. They told me to wait 10 days and if it was still good in 10 days it was real. Guess what? Five days later the check was no good," Linda said.

"I have no idea how these scam artists got Dennis' name or his address," Linda said.

A second check came March 12 also worth $4,500. "It came from the same place with the same information. I didn't do anything with it. I aways thought you can't win if you don't enter and I never entered anything," Linda said.

The third check the couple received was dated March 13. It was for $3,965.45 It was from Lexis Marketing and Research Management Inc. All three checks had a Canada contact number.

The information included in the letter with the check said the company had received a message that the Walters had made an inquiry about an extra income position from the company's job market data base. "We are happy to inform you that you have been selected to become one of our representatives in your region," the letter stated.

The letter went on to say, "Please be informed that there is one probational training assignment that you are required to complete within 48 hours. This training assignment takes about two hours to complete and is paid training. The aim of this training assignment is for you to familiarize yourself with the practical feel of what secret shopping entails. This assignment can be completed at any Money Gram location. The objective of this assignment will be to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a payment system called Money Gram."

"The letter told us we would be posing as a potential customer sending a Money Gram payment to another secret shopper in Canada or the United States. It said the funds needed to complete this transaction assignment had been arranged," Linda said.

Instructions in the letter continued. "(1) Evaluation pay + expenses, $400. (2) Gap purchase (anything) of your choice), $50. (3) Walmart (anything of your choice), $50. The Money Gram transfer is $3,300. The service charge by Money Gram, $165.34.

The expenses totaled $3,965.34, the amount of the third check received by the Walters.

"What the whole thing amounted to, is after everything was said and done and we sent the scam artist thousands of dollars we would get to keep $400," Linda said.

The couple did not buy into this scam either.

A search of the Internet shows there is a company called Secret Shopper. On their Web site they have placed an alert regarding such scams like the Walters received.

The alert said: There are disreputable companies scamming shoppers. Some charge a fee for information on becoming a shopper. We do not and have never charged a shopper to affiliate with us. One of the latest and more serious we've heard about is a company sending out large advance cashiers checks. The shopper is told to send a Money Gram or wire money to a person in Canada, keeping part of the check for themselves. However, the check is not legitimate and bounces, leaving the shopper without any money to cover Money Gram."

"What really bothers me is that an older person, say if my mother was still alive, she would have probably been taken. We just want the community to know there are scams out there even in places like rural Oregon County. If anyone receives a suspicious check in the mail, I would advise them to immediately contact the sheriff or local law enforcement," Linda said.

Although Linda is glad her family was not out any money through the scams, she says she still did a little day dreaming. "Yes, the money would have been nice. I would have put a new concrete floor in Dennis' garage," she said.

Linda drives a school bus for the Couch School District and Dennis is a logger.

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