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Warning about fake check scam

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The crooks are not giving up -- they're constantly coming up with ways to take your money. One scheme that continues to be a problem in our area - the fake award notifications with a check attached. A viewer called 12 to warn others after he got a bogus check claiming he had won big. We investigated and found out you have to always be on alert because these phony offers are becoming more convincing.

65-year-old James Gould likes to fix things. What he doesn't likes is someone trying to get over on him. It almost happen when he got this check in the mail.

"When it said $3,750 my ears perked up," he said. 

It came attached to an award notification.

Gould told us, "I know I didn't do no lottery drawing, so a red flag went up to me."

It claimed he actually won $95,000 -- the nearly $4,000 check was just the beginning. But as with most of these check scams -- the crooks weren't giving up any cash, but wanted his money.

"They said I would have to pay $1,200 in taxes and that would only leave me $1,050," Gould said.

He admits the check appeared legit and the quick cash was enticing.

"My checking account is not all that high and it's a lot of people out there they live week by week or month by month income," he said.

The scheme doesn't stop there, unlike phony offers we've told you about in the past this one didn't have those persistent grammatical errors. Another thing that may fool people -- the letter claims you're getting the prize because you shopped at major retailers.

"I go to Wal-Mart, Sears, Lowes sometimes Home Depot. I have a Master Card, I go to Staples sometimes and they always got little forms you fill out hoping that you win something," he said.

Consumer advocates say never try to cash one of these checks and remember, just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check or money order is good. It can take weeks, even months, for counterfeits to be discovered.

"It's a lot of people out there that they may not read the letter, they just might take the check and go ahead and try to cash it," Gould said. 

We contacted Bank of America, it confirms the check is a fake and says it's aware of the scheme and has alerted customers. We also contacted Bunzl, the company listed on the check -- it was surprised crooks was mis-using its name. It too confirms the check was not issued by them and is a counterfeit. The company is investigating.

In a statement it says: "Bunzl Distribution is not involved in any lottery drawing, contest or promotion. The letter is a scam, targeting consumers across the United States. According to authorities, this is a common fraud. These con artists use a company's name for a period of time before moving on to another company. The Bunzl check enclosed with the letter is counterfeit. Bunzl has filed a complaint with the Secret Service. We strongly urge consumers to disregard the letter and check and to contact your local U.S. Secret Service Field Office."

Gould's local Bank of America branch also confirmed the check was not legit. Once he was sure it was bogus he called 12.

"I like the fact that 12's On Your Side. That is the first thing I thought about, well if they are my side, they will do something about this. The person who would sign this check, they would be in a world of trouble," he said.

If you get one of these checks in the mail, you can report to the Post Master.

We've posted some helpful links below:

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/phonefraud/sweepstakes.shtml

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