Ocean View police are warning area residents to beware of a mail scam that mirrors increasingly common Internet scams involving purported international lotteries and fake checks.
An Ocean View resident recently received an envelope through the U.S. mail containing a letter claiming that he had won a prize in the “Mega Million Draw” valued at $280,000.
Enclosed with the letter was a check for $3,800, made out to the addressee, which the letter claims to be advance payment from the supposed lottery winnings, to cover a “tax clearance fee” before the remainder of the prize would be paid out by a bank draft or certified check sent through a courier.
The letter instructs the recipient to send a tax payment of $2,885 via Moneygram or Western Union to an address in British Columbia, Canada, and to call a toll-free number to speak to a “claims agent” and begin the claims process.
It also instructs the recipient: “You should keep your winning informations [sic] secret untill [sic] your claim is processed and your money is released to you.”
The Ocean View man who received the letter in question turned it over to Ocean View police this week, who in turn handed the matter over to officials with the U.S. Postal Service for further investigation.
Ocean View officers said they had called the toll-free number listed in the letter and that the call had been answered by a man with an African accent who, unconvincingly, claimed to be the purported “claims agent” mentioned in the letter. The postage on the envelope, notably, is from South Africa.
According to the OVPD, the scam follows the same line as many Internet scams, in which the target of the scam is told they have won a prize but must pay out taxes or a collection fee before the prize will be released.
“The victim would deposit the check sent with the letter and then send out the fee,” the officer said. “The deposited check would come back as fraudulent, and that’s when you lose your money.”
The OVPD asks that anyone receiving a similar letter contact the police department — and the U.S. Postal Service — to report it.