Email or envelope--a scam is still a scam

Most of us have had those emails reach our inboxes that promise lottery winnings as soon as we forward them our banking information so they can make the deposit right into our accounts.

Or maybe you’ve received the letter from a serviceman overseas who needs to hide millions of dollars he got a hold of from an abandoned bank in Afghanistan, or the African prince who wants to get his fortune out of his country immediately and will send it to your account if you provide the information.

The first time you saw one of these messages you might have gotten a little excited. You might have even sent them the information they requested. Someone certainly has, or they wouldn’t continue to be sent with such regularity.

But they are scams — referred to as “phishing” by those in law enforcement positions who deal with fraud. They are designed to obtain personal information from you so they can gain access to your bank account, or to set up credit under your name so they can rob you blind courtesy of the dreaded “identity theft.”

It would appear that many people have become wise to this email scam over the years. Law enforcement officials, the IRS and other agencies have made efforts to publicize these shams, and media sources have gotten out the word over and over again for people to delete these messages as soon as they see them.

Most Internet-savvy people now know these emails are just garbage. It’s often a joke around our office when somebody receives one, as the recipient will exclaim, “My God, I think I’m about to get $40 million from a prince from Zimbabwe.”

But a reader dropped off a letter to our office the other day that he just recently received in the mail. It was from the “Intl. Lotto Commission,” had a postmark from Portugal and had content very similar to the emails many of us have received hundreds of times.
The letter stated that our reader has “been approved for a lump Sum Pay of $1,815,950.00.” The letter advised our reader to keep the contents of the letter “confidential” until they can process his winnings and he should contact the lawyer that they mention in the article so the “Commission” can wire his winnings into his own bank account.

Now, our reader has a background that enables him to pretty easily sniff out a fraud, and he did. He contacted the attorney general’s office and told them about it, and brought by a copy to us so we could get the word out to the rest of you.

So, please, if you receive something that seems too good to be true, contact somebody in law enforcement. They’ll let you know if it’s real or not. Postage on an envelope does not make it legitimate.