Scam Alert: TaxFree Shopping, Ltd Prize Winning
Please note: TaxFree Shopping, Ltd. is a valid business that has been victimized in this scam.
Just after I wrote about Jeff Kreisler’s book Get Rich Cheating, I received a piece of air mail yesterday telling me I had won a bunch of money. Supposedly it came from TaxFree Shopping, Ltd. based in Addison, Texas. Everything about it screamed SCAM!
First, it told me that I had won $150,000 in a “Consumer Promotion Draw organized for all customers of the major stores in U.S.A., Canada and United Kingdom e.g.: Wal-Mart, Sears, Home Depot, Safeway, H.E.B., Sainsbury, Dell, HP, Dillard’s, Teco [probably meant TaxFree Shopping, Ltd. is a Better Business Bureau A+ accredited company. The problem: the check was no good.
“We can’t give out that information, sir,” she said.
“You can’t tell me if the check is good? It’s drawn off your bank.”
“No, sir, we can’t give out that information.”
“Okay, then let me cash it.”
“It’s over the amount we are allowed to cash.”
“Please get your manager. I’d rather you tell me that the check is not good then for me to try to cash it at my bank and get the bounced check fee.”
The bank manager was more helpful (why do these things always have to come down to ‘let me speak to your manager’…sigh) The manager confirmed that the check was fake, and that they had seen this before.
How the scam works
Apparently, the scam works this way: Doofus gets a check and instead of investigating it on their own, calls the numbers listed for TaxFree Shopping, Ltd. (on the letter it says to call Richard Patton “for advice on how to claim your winning” and gives the telephone numbers 1-866-213-8778 or 1-866-213-5993). Doofus wires the $2950.00 and instead of being richer, now is out $2950.00 and additional bounced check fees.
It’s hard to imagine anyone falling for this because it is so easy to discover, but I guess there’s a sucker born every minute. The seemingly live check signed by hand on a major bank was enough to have me take ten minutes out of my morning to investigate.
What perplexed me was my own thinking. I had recently bought a 23 inch HP flat screen monitor, and wondered if I had filled out on-the-fly some sweepstakes (I don’t usually, but sometimes I do). Regardless, my brain told me the $150,000.00 was a scam, but here I had a check in my hand for $3,800. If the $3800 was valid, I might have followed-up about the $150K (which the letter, dated September 18th, had told me was not good after 20 days. Somehow it took this letter 20 days to get to my mailbox).
Chase bank confiscated the phony check, and my slight notions of a possible Spanish vacation evaporated as I left the bank and thanked the manager for her help.
TaxFree Shopping, Ltd. is a victim
I spoke with Ben Petty, the managing partner of TFS, Ltd., and he confirmed that this has been going on for awhile. Apparently some guy up in Massachusetts was taken for about $10,000. The perpetrators are out of–surprise!–Nigeria and the Secret Service is not able to do anything about it.
They are actually using the real account information for this company, and it has caused havoc for its business. The check that I received is the fourth generation of the scam. The Nigerians are hiring people through Craigslist looking for “check processors”, and then they tell them to go to Office Depot and buy check-writing supplies and check-printing software. Some people actually do it.
Mr. Petty has been fielding many phone calls from distraught and disappointed senior citizens.
Don’t work for this scam. Don’t cash the check. Don’t call the number. Don’t send the money, or you will end up a fool.