Check scam targets Bellevue man with promise of ‘recession relief'

Scam artists targeted a Bellevue man this week promising a $180,000 “recession relief package” if he paid thousands of dollars for a processing fee.

Jim Tieger opened his mail to find a fake check for $4,700 and a letter stating he could claim the remainder of his winnings by wiring $2,950 to an administrator.

The supposed prize money was to come from several internet sweepstakes “put together by the international gaming commission,” and was intended to “alleviate the global recession,” according to the letter.

“I thought scam immediately,” Tieger said. “The more I read it, the more humorous it got. I shouldn't laugh, though. People fall for this.”

Had Tieger deposited the check, his account balance would have shown an increase while the order was processing.

Scammers count on their victims to wire the requested money before the illicit check bounces.

Washington Attorney General spokeswoman Kristin Alexander says the ploy that Tieger discovered is one of countless fake check schemes taking place these days.

“This one goes to show that cons are following the news,” she said. “We're seeing more and more scams tied to the economy.”

Another common ruse promises employment and then asks victims to wire money for training or work-related software.

Scam artists are also luring jobseekers with work-at-home schemes.

One such ploy asks its victims to act as secret-shoppers, telling them to wire money through Western Union or Money Gram and then rate the services provided by those companies.

“The common denominator in all these scams is that you're asked to wire money,” Alexander said. “That's the red flag right there.”

The Federal Trade Commission reports that an estimated 30.2 million adults in the U.S. are victims of fraud during a single year.

The top schemes range from foreign-lottery scams and advance-fee loans to fake weight-loss products.

Alexander says anyone who suspects they've received a fraudulent check should contact the financial institution listed on the check or consult with their bank teller before cashing it.

Other resources for avoiding scams include the Attorney General's Consumer Resource Center (425.551.4636) and FakeChecks.org.

Alexander says awareness and prevention are the best means of combating scammers, since tracking the culprits is nearly impossible.

“It's very difficult because these people are located overseas the majority of the time,” she said.

Suspected check frauds received by mail can be reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service although Alexander says the best advice she can give is to simply shred the checks.

Tieger had something more in mind.

“I was going to wait a week and then call the number they gave me,” he said. “I figured I could toy with them, say a few choice words, and then hang up.”

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at 425-453-4290.