Check fraud scam targeting the elderly

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s the message from U.S. Postal Inspectors about a scam involving checks made out to unsuspecting St. Louisans.

It was Alex and Rich Usher’s lucky day; a letter in the mail, letting them know they were now $250,000 richer.

The letter included a check from a Nebraska bank for $4,350. “Which was going to be deposited into my account and used to pay the processing fee,” explained Alex Usher.

Luckily, she didn’t deposit that check.  It would have ultimately bounced, after she paid the hefty processing fee.  “I knew it was a scam. Nobody in this world gives you all this money for no good reason,” she said.

The check is from the Midwest Bank in Pierce, Nebraska.  According to a bank representative, the check is from a real, but empty, bank account.

Unfortunately U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor says people fall victim to these foreign lottery scams because the checks appear to be real.

“Just some rough estimates indicate that it’s well over $100 million per year that’s going out of the country, just on lottery scams,” explained Taylor.

As is the case with many scams, the elderly are often targeted.  “At our age, we’re not as sharp as we were when we were younger, and I think we’re pretty trusting as a generation, so that’s too bad,” lamented Usher.

Postal inspectors follow the trail as best they can, but the international nature of these scams makes them tough to track.  Therefore, their best bet is educating the public.

“Did you receive a notification that you’ve won a contest that you never even entered? The red flags also go up if this involves a foreign country,” Taylor explained. He also mentioned that it’s illegal for Americans to participate in foreign lotteries to begin with.

Even though the Usher wasn’t taken advantage of, she is still angry that these scammers even tried: “It’s a shame. I don’t know how people can live with themselves when they participate in taking people’s money this way. Elderly people who lose their life’s savings with this kind of scam. It’s pathetic.”

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