Dallas Holman opened his mailbox recently to find a check worth $4,500.
However, Holman wasn't expecting a check.
"If it's too good to be true, then it really is," said Ed Brady, vice-president and security manager
for First Federal.
Holman's check raised red flags warning of a check fraud scam.
A detailed letter said that Holman had won the Canadian lottery and was guaranteed $150,000 but he must mail $3,750 back to the senders within 15 days of the listed date as a form of tax payment or he would be dropped from the contest.
"If you didn't enter, then you aren't going to win," Sequim Police Officer Maris Turner said. "You are never going to win free money."
The letter encouraged secrecy, saying to lie about the money's origin. If asked, Holman was to tell officials the money came from a settlement rather than from lotto winnings.
The check was labeled from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., with whom Holman
had begun doing business in January.
But Jon Jack, Holman's State Farm insurance representative, said the check isn't theirs. Jack said no claim payment from State Farm ever
asks for money back.
"It's just someone phishing. The reference to State Farm is coincidental," Jack said. "Because we are a larger company, then people use us as an in."
Jack said such check fraud scams don't occur often in his or other State Farm offices and the scammers did not receive any information from his office.
"Everything that is processed in our office is shredded," Jack said.
A copy of the check is now with State Farm's corporate offices for investigation.
"Everything with this check matched up except the back didn't have the right watermarks," Holman said.
He initially brought the check to his bank, First Federal. While in line, Holman met a woman by chance with a similar check. It was made out from Fidelity Mutual for $4,700 and had the same postmarks as Holman's.
Brady said First Federal educates its staff on identifying check fraud and scams.
"Check fraud is prevalent," he said. "We partner with customers to educate them on protecting
their money. We have stopped a lot of consumers from cashing bad checks."
Brady hopes community members will see their local banks as resources to answer their questions.
"Scammers say to keep things quiet, but we
can help people prevent bad things from happening to their money," Brady said.
Sequim Police and the Clallam County Sheriff's Office both recommend contacting them about scams.
"In these economic times, people see these checks in the mail as a quick buck," Turner said.
She says never to put the check in your bank account or cash it out. Turner also recommends individuals ask their bank first about suspicious checks to verify if they are real.
In the past six weeks, Holman has sent back more than 100 fake awards letters.
"I got a phone call asking for my address so that they could deliver a package. Halfway through the conversation, the man on the line fuzzed out," he said.
Holman threatened to trace the call and return the package if they sent it.
"I have been staying up late at night dealing with this," Holman said. "I hope more people will come forward about this to officials."
Turner said several scams have been circulating on the peninsula for the past two to three years.
Edgar Green, administrative sergeant for the Port Townsend Police Department, said groups of people are making phone calls for Corporations for Character, a nonprofit group based out of Utah, asking for money for families of police officers killed in the line of duty.
Green said no local groups are raising funds for law enforcement through Corporations for Character but that scammers are using the company as a front for access to bank accounts.
Turner said she has not received any calls about this in Sequim. She said recent scams in Sequim involve fake calls about updating Social Security information and asking for bank statement information.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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