SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna today warned consumers about a new version of a counterfeit check scam in which victims are told they received a restitution from a lawsuit settlement.
The Attorney General’s Office was contacted by a California resident whose elderly father last month received a letter addressed to his home in San Bruno, CA, along with a check for $2,915 that bounced shortly after it was deposited.
“The woman who contacted our office was smart to be suspicious,” McKenna said. “Counterfeit check scams are on the rise. They take many forms but always end the same way – the check eventually bounces, sometimes weeks after it’s deposited. Meanwhile, the victim is usually told to send additional money as a wire transfer or provide personal information that can be used to commit identity theft.”
The letter states that “court evidence supports the fact that you may have been a victim of fraud. … A class action suit was filed against the corporation indicted for fraudulent activity. And thus a declaration of settlement out of court was signed to compensate you of punitive damages. Thereof, you are to receive a legal claim for the amount of $125,000.”
The letterhead reads “Law Office of Issacs and Weissman PLLC” and includes addresses in downtown Seattle and Vancouver, BC. The Attorney General’s Office contacted the owner of the Seattle building, who confirmed that no law firm by that name is located there. The Canadian address does not exist.
The letter encourages the recipient to contact the law firm immediately “in order to obtain your settlement quickly and avoid any confusion.” It includes a phone number with a Canadian area code. The Attorney General’s Office dialed the number and received an automated message stating that the party could not be reached.
The check was written on a legitimate account belonging to a Massachusetts corporation that manufactures equipment used for industrial and medical purposes. A company representative said that at least 25 bogus checks but possibly as many as 250 were sent to homes throughout the country, along with several versions of letters indicating they were settlement payments. He said that the bank was able to stop the fraudulent checks from clearing, sparing the company from any financial harm. But he did not know if any victims had sent money to the cons.
Counterfeit checks are also commonly linked with foreign lottery scams and with swindlers who browse classifieds then contact sellers claiming to be an interested buyer.
“Help protect your family and friends. Tell them to never wire money or provide personal information to a stranger,” McKenna said.
Report cross-border fraud to the following agencies:
· The Federal Trade Commission: Call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or file a complaint online atwww.ftc.gov
· Mail fraud – U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Call 1-800-372-8347 or file a complaint online athttp://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/welcome.htm.
· Online fraud – FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center:www.ic3.gov
· Phonebusters, the Canadian anti-fraud call center: 1-888-495-8501,www.phonebusters.com
· Attorney General’s Office: Washington residents who believe they are victims of a scam can file a complaint online atwww.atg.wa.govor call 1-800-551-4636.
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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432