Dorris Huey of Cape Girardeau knew what to do when he received a letter informing him he'd won $250,000 and instructing him to send $2,985 to cover taxes on the winnings.
He called the police and ignored the $3,985 check enclosed with the letter, although it did look legitimate.
The letter, marked with an address from Nova Scotia, Canada, instructed him to send the money through a Moneygram account, Huey said.
Detective Hank Voelker of the Cape Girardeau Police Department said the police department has been alerted to similar schemes about two or three times a week.
It seems that they originally all came from Nigeria, but shifted to Canada, where federal authorities have been unable to track them. Their goal is to make some sort of contact with their victims, then begin asking for small amounts of money to cover the tax expenses in order for the victim to claim their "winnings," Voelker said.
They'll claim that they aren't getting the checks and ask for more, he said.
They'll ask for money to cover tax expenses, but the check they send to victims doesn't clear, and by the time it bounces, they're long gone, he said.
A Cape Girardeau man recently lost nearly $11,000 in a similar scam, Voelker said.
People who don't make Internet purchases often believe they are safe from being targeted for fraud, not realizing if they've ever paid for a utility their information is easy to obtain, Voelker said.
"All you pretty much have to do is exist and you could be a victim of fraud," Voelker said.
Voelker advised running a credit history frequently and red-flagging any credit accounts you did not authorize.
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