Scam targets Ironton resident, others

Published 9:57 am Monday, December 27, 2010

Charlotte Rowley wasn’t sure what to think of a check that came in the mail a few weeks ago. It came in a plain white, official-looking envelope with an upside down stamp, no return address, and the words “Reader’s Digest” typed on it.

Given that that the letter had an upside down stamp, which is sometimes used to mean, “I love you,” at first glance, the Ironton resident thought it was from a friend.

“I thought ‘gee, someone is sending me a Christmas card,’” Rowley said. “And then the check fell out.”

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The check was written out to her in the amount of $2,842.11. An accompanying letter indicated that Rowley had won $500,000 from Reader’s Digest and she was to use the money from the check to cover any expenses that could come from transferring the money.

According to Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray’s office, these sorts of scam letters that claim to be from Reader’s Digest have been reported in several Ohio locations.

Victims deposit the check, which is worthless, and then are asked to pay expenses with the money from the check,

Luckily for Crowley, a friend warned her that she should be wary of the letter and she took it to her bank to get advice from her banker. Her banker recognized it as fake and said he had heard of a man who deposited a similar check. In that situation, the company then asked the man to pay some money back to using the check it sent. Because the check was bad, the man was out $5,000.

According to Cordray’s office, there have been 10 reports in Ohio of people receiving these types of letters. The complaints have come in from Newark, Springfield, London and Orrville, to name a few.

The office warns that some of the signs of such a scam are: winning a contest the receiver did not enter, being asked to wire money, receiving an unexpected check in the mail, being asked to pay taxes or administrative fees, the contest name is similar or identical to a well-known organization and if a letter asks for personal information.

Crowley said if she had to it do over she would have thrown out the letter. At the time, though, she spent the weekend thinking of all the things she could do with the cash.

“I would like to say to people that these award letters are hoaxes,” Crowley said. “Don’t waste your time. Throw the darn thing away.”

According to Cordray’s office, the following are more warning signs of a scam:

• A recipient is informed they’ve won a foreign lottery and are asked to cash a check and send money to cover taxes or fees.

• A work-at-home opportunity involves cashing a check, keeping some money and wire transferring the rest.

• A letter indicates that a recipient has overpaid for an item he or she sold on the Internet and should return the extra money by wire.

• Someone sends an email seeking a favor, asking the person to cash a check and wire them the money.

To report a scam, contact Cordray’s office at or (800) 282-0515.