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If you get a sweepstakes letter alerting you that you’ve been chosen as a winner, think twice.
Scam artists are sending out official-looking Publisher’s Clearing House letters to recipients, telling them they’ve been awarded a $1 million prize. Enclosed is a check for $5,340 that appears to be authentic. But a closer look indicates the fraud: The check is issued by Richmond insurance company, the Letzig Group.
Patricia Letzig, co-owner of Letzig Group warns anyone who receives this mailing not to cash the check. The account number, one of two Letzig Group accounts that were fraudulently used in July, is now closed. Victims who cash those checks will eventually be charged for that money when the bank determines the check bounced.
The Letzig Company has been grappling with identity theft, and recently their credit cards were fraudulently hit two weeks ago. Their bank, Richmond Bank of America, has taken care of the wrongful charges.
“Bank of America is handling it all,” Letzig said. “They’ve been so good.”
The Letzigs found out about the scam after getting calls from people who received these letters, determining whether their winnings were legitimate or not. Most of the people who contacted them lived on the East Coast or in Canada; however, this particular con has hit consumers nationally for the past year.
To report fraudulent mailings or offers, contact local law enforcement or the Missouri Attorney General’s office at 1-800-392-8222. Suspected mail fraud can also be turned over to local postmasters. Richmond Postmaster Tammy Sullard says she sends suspected mail fraud to the Inspection Service in Kansas City for determination.
PRECAUTIONS AGAINST IDENtITY THEFT
The Missouri Attorney General’s office advises citizens to follow these tips to avoid ID theft:
• Don’t give out your Social Security or account numbers unless you initiate the contact.
• Leave your Social Security number off checks and driver’s license.
• Shred trash with sensitive information, including convenience checks and credit card offers you get in the mail.
• Send sensitive mail using a post office drop box, rather than a mailbox at home.
• Carry only the credit cards and documents you need on a daily basis. Don’t carry your Social Security card.
• Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers and get fewer solicitations at home: www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-567-8688.
• Use virus protection, a firewall and spyware detection on your computer.
• Freeze your credit report (By placing a security freeze on your credit report, you make your personal information useless to a thief.).
The Attorney General’s office has set up a hotline to help citizens recognize and report identity theft at 1-800-392-8222.