So, last week my uncle got a letter in the mail addressed to my now-deceased grandmother. The letter states that she won a Reader’s Digest sweepstakes and was the winner of a $145,000 grand prize drawing. Enclosed in the envelope was a check in the amount of $3,980.56.
When I got the phone call about this check, my first thought was, “Oh, Grandma must have taken out another insurance policy that we didn’t know about.” But then when I found at that it was part of a sweepstakes, red flags starting popping up everywhere. When I got home to take a look at the check in person, I noticed a number of strange things. Let’s take a look at the envelope.
I blocked out some of the stuff to protect personal information, but there were several things about the envelope that I thought were strange. First of all, there was no return address. I could understand if Reader’s Digest wanted to keep everything private, but no return address? Secondly, my grandma’s name and address were printed on a label that was affixed to the envelope. Talk about cheap! For a prize worth $145,000, you would think that they could at least print her name on the envelope. Thirdly, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the stamp is from Canada. I have nothing against Canadians, but really? That was definitely the biggest red flag on the envelope itself. I knew something was up before I even took the letter out.
Now let’s move on to the letter. Again, I have blocked on certain text on the letter. Notice that there is no address anywhere on the letter. Well isn’t that strange?
The letter is printed on plain, tan-colored 20 lb. copy paper. If these con-artists up in Canada want to make the letter more convincing, maybe they should invest in some good quality paper. For goodness sakes – they’re barely even trying at this point. Don’t they have a Wal-Mart nearby where they can buy some linen résumé paper? They have the Wal-Mart logo at the bottom of the letter, so surely they know what a Wal-Mart is, right? Speaking of logos, why are all of those logos even printed at the bottom of the page? They’re not mentioned in the letter and you will notice that many of those logos are disproportional when compared to the actual logos for their respective corporations. Obviously, the con-artists sending this letter need a class in graphic arts, as well.
The letter is from Lynn Reid, the mouthful-titled Prize Award Administrator, but I’m really not sure who’s signature is on the letter. It definitely doesn’t say Lynn Reid. It’s also painfully obvious that the signature is nothing more than a poor graphic. I would think that on an important grand prize letter like this one that Lynn Reid would at least sign the letter herself with an ink pen. After all, they’re only sending out one grand prize letter, right?
The letter also assures us that they’re not trying to collect any personal or bank information. Oh, great! Now I completely trust these guys, because I know they’re not trying to take my money. In fact, the letter comes with a nice check.
The check is from the Colony Insurance Company in Richmond, Virginia and is drawn on a Wachovia Bank account in Oakton, Virginia. The check says that it’s paid on the behalf of Argonaut Insurance Company. Now what is the point of the check? I thought Grandma was suppose to get $145,000? Where’s the prize money? According to the letter, we’re suppose to talk to Customer Care Representative Lisa Kirgan in the prize distribution department. Surely, she will be able to explain all of this to us.
So my uncle calls Lisa Kirgan at 778-316-1600, which just so happens to be a phone number in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Hey, maybe that explains the Canadian stamp?) Sniffling, in a very unprofessional tone, “Lisa” explains to my uncle that he just needs to cash the check. When he explains to her that my grandmother just recently died, she tells him, “Oh, that’s OK, just cash the check anyways.” What? She even goes on to tell my uncle that my grandma mailed in her sweepstakes entry last summer. That kind of makes me mad, because Grandma had aphasia, a form of dementia that basically prevented her from writing letters or even signing her name. Talk about a deeply personal insult against the dignity of of my grandmother.
There are so many red flags popping up around this one letter, it’s ridiculous. I don’t know how people fall for scams like this. I’m putting all of this up here so that I might prevent an innocent person from getting scammed by these rotten Canadians. But what is the point of sending you a check? Well, if you read this handy information from the Federal Trade Commission, you’ll begin to understand. Basically, these con-artists will get you to deposit check into your bank account and ask that you wire them the money to “confirm” your claim to the prize. Then after the check bounces at your financial institution in a few days (and it will), you’re stuck paying back the money while the crooks have split with the cash.
Please, don’t fall for this scam!