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MARY MEAUX — Local woman loses $7.5K in scam; Beware of common tricks used

If it’s too good to be true, then don’t trust it — at least if it concerns big lottery winnings if you just pay the taxes.

A local woman found out the hard way and lost $7,500 when she was scammed earlier this week.

The 70-year-old victim had received a letter saying she won $600,000 — to claim it she would need to cash a check and send them $7,500 for Canadian taxes.

When she went to the post office to make the transaction she was stopped. But the scammers are tricky. They told her to place the money in a magazine and mail it to them and she did not knowing the check she cashed was no good.

“Never, ever send money, wire money or buy gift cards in situations like this. Call the local police department,” Nederland Police Chief Gary Porter said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said no legitimate lottery or sweepstakes requires money up front for you to collect the prize you have won.

“Some consumers, wise to the lottery scam, have been fooled by a new twist. They know they shouldn’t send money in advance to collect a prize, but they are fooled when they receive a great big check — a cashier’s check, no less,” according to the Attorney General’s website. “We think of a cashier’s check as being a very safe type of financial instrument, safer than a personal check because it is guaranteed by the bank. This is true if the cashier’s check is real.”

Counterfeit cashier’s checks have become common, and many are such good forgeries that they can fool even bank tellers.

The counterfeit checks are seen most often in connection with sales and purchases, but may be used to persuade a victim that he or she has received a large prize.

There are thousands of new scams each year and it can be difficult to keep up with them, according to the Better Business Bureau. They offered some tips to be safe:

  • Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face.
  • Avoid clicking links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Don’t believe everything you see, scammers are great at mimicking official seals.
  • Double check your online purchase is secure before checking out.
  • Use extreme caution when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers can use dating websites, Craigslist, social media and other sites to reach potential targets.
  • Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately.
  • Use secure and traceable transactions.
  • Whenever possible, work with local businesses.
  • Be cautious about what you share on social media.

Remember, if you are in doubt you can call your local police department and ask them for guidance.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com