Christina, a struggling mother of four, couldn't believe her luck when she got a letter in the mail saying she won a lottery in Australia. "I have four children and I was living with my mother, and I was like, 'Wow. I can put a down payment on a house. I can pay a lot of my bills," Christina says.
The letter said Christina had just three weeks to claim her $50,000—all she had to do was pay the taxes, and the remainder of her winnings would be sent to her. Three days later, Christina received two checks in the mail for a total of a little less than $8,000. "[One was for] federal fees and one was for state fees," she says.
Because she was skeptical, Christina says she did some legwork to try to make sure the checks were legitimate. She called the Better Business Bureau and learned that a company referenced in the documents—a firm that deals with unclaimed funds—was an actual business. Christina says she tried to verify the checks' authenticity by calling the phone number written on them and pretending to be a bank official who wanted to confirm the routing and account numbers. The person who answered the phone said the information was correct. Christina also had a friend look on the Internet to check the bank's address.
After doing everything she could think of to find out if the checks were genuine, Christina finally went to the bank. She says the bank cashed the checks for her right away—no questions asked—and the people there even congratulated her. "They put the money in my hands. I was like, 'I really actually truly did win the lottery,'" Christina says.
Following the instructions given to her by the people who sent her the letter, Christina wired the money she received from the checks to New York. She thought she was paying taxes on her lottery winnings. Then, Christina got a third check in the mail. "They said they did not send enough for the federal fees the first time, and once I sent that, I would have my money," Christina says.
So, Christina took another trip to the bank to cash the third check, but there was a problem. "[The bank] said, 'Oh no, the first check came back. It's counterfeit,'" Christina says. "I thought I did my homework. I thought I was very thorough, and they said I'm responsible for the money."
Instead of reaping $50,000 in lottery winnings, Christina ended up being scammed out of nearly $8,000—even though she says she tried to protect herself. "She did all the right things. The fact of the matter is that these are professional con men who do this