A sinister variation of the International Lottery Scam is one in which the victim actually does receive a cheque from the criminals. Ostensibly, the cheque is a small portion of the large sum of money that the victim has supposedly won in the “lottery”. The scammers claim that this pre-payment is to be used to cover fees related to the release of the rest of the “winnings”.
A submission from a Hoax-Slayer visitor should help illustrate how these scammers operate:
I got a letter saying that I had won a lot of money in a lottery. The letter came with a check for $2,765.38. The letter said that I should put the check in my bank and then wire $2,745.20 to an overseas number to pay for the international clearance fee for my prize. They said that after I send the clearance fee they will send my prize of $83,598.12.
Since the check has already cleared in my bank and it seems all ok, does this mean that the prize is real? Should I wire the money?
In fact, the cheque that the victim received is likely to be stolen. By tricking a victim into wiring money from the proceeds of such a cheque, the scammers have effectively “laundered” their stolen funds. Of course, the promised prize is entirely imaginary and will never arrive. And sadly, the victim may have to face serious legal and financial consequences. The “paper trail” of the stolen cheque may lead police directly to the hapless “lottery winner”. Technically, he or she has committed fraud by depositing and using funds from the stolen cheque. Meanwhile, the scammer has picked up the stolen money and disappeared. This ruse is similar to payment transfer job scams, which are also intended to launder stolen funds.
Even recipients who have some awareness of lottery scams may fall victim to this cheque variation. Because a potential victim actually takes possession of a cheque that seems to clear without problems, he or she is more likely to believe that the lottery is genuine. In some cases, the scammers may convince the victim to wire money out of his or her own funds even before the cheque has cleared by claiming that the payment must be made within a certain time or the winnings will be forfeited. If the cheque is bogus and subsequently dishonoured by the bank, the victim will be left out of pocket.
Often, this sort of lottery scam message is sent to potential victims via surface mail with the cheque already included. Alternatively, an initial message may be sent by email or fax. If a potential victim responds to this message, he or she will soon be sent a cheque by mail.
No legitimate lottery would ever process winnings in this manner. Since there are many variations of this money-laundering ruse, people should be very cautious of any proposal in which they are requested to receive funds into their bank account and subsequently wire a portion of the funds to another destination.