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Too Good To Be True

As prices everywhere seem to be continually increasing, a littleextra money can seem like a blessing. Sometimes, however, thisseemingly good news can really be a front for a scam.

Marie Smith, of Bogue Chitto, managed to avoid one recently whenshe received a letter supposedly from Reader’s Digest telling hershe had won a sweepstakes.

“I just thought the eagle had landed when I saw that $7,000check,” she said.

Smith said she did not immediately find anything suspiciousabout the letter and check because she belongs the Reader’s Digestbook club and often enters contests and sweepstakes. However, asshe looked more closely at the letter and the check, she becameconcerned.

Later that day, her sister came over, and they called thenumbers listed. She said she had called Reader’s Digest and theydid not know Matthews or Smith, the contact names listed in theletter.

She said the man on the phone began furiously asking, “What didyou do that for?”

“It was just ridiculous,” she said.

Smith and her sister tried to call back, but the call was notanswered. From there, she decided to at least try to initiate someaction against the scammers. She first visited a bank, where theytold her the check most likely was stolen from Prudential andforged. She was told that most checks like that would show it wasnot any good within a few minutes of being posted.

She also took the letter and check to the Lincoln CountySheriff’s Department.

Chief Deputy Johnny Hall said he also called the number andpretended to be a recipient of the letter. At the end of theconversation, he revealed that he was actually law enforcement.

“As soon as I said Lincoln County Sheriff … they hung up,” hesaid.

He tried to call back, but the call was also ignored.

Hall said situations like this are one of the reasons theperpetrators are hard to catch. Not only are they often out ofcountry, but also the scammers will move around frequently.

Hall said when the department receives a complaint about scams,LCSD will then forward it to a special department in AttorneyGeneral’s Office in Jackson.

Unfortunately, scams are becoming a common situation. Lately,Hall said, lately, LCSD will hear similar complaints three or fourtimes a month.

“(Scams) are out there,” he said. “It’s not just in the bigcities; it’s right here in Brookhaven and the surroundingcounties.”

Hall said he also sees that most scams focus on the elderly. Hewarned against any letters asking for money back or have anystrange demands.

In this particular case, the letter read “Please make sure youcall the number above before depositing the cheque.”

Hall said when receiving a letter about a prize, be sure to readit more than once.

“Don’t get all excited about money that isn’t yours,” he said.”If (anyone) has any questions feel free to contact us.”

Recipients of potential scam letters should pay attention todetails.

For this letter, the envelope Smith received had a Canadianpostmark, and the contact number’s area code was for BritishColumbia. However, Reader’s Digest is based in New York, and thecheck listed a Philadelphia address.

Hall was also concerned that the letter said “an agent will besent to you to sign off the final legal documents.”

He said if this happens to someone, that person should contactLCSD.

Hall and Smith both agree it is important to alert the communityof potential scams.

“I don’t want people to see it as a godsend,” she said.