The story is almost always the same.
Someone gets a check and a letter in the mail claiming they won an overseas lottery. All they have to do is cash the check, which is said to cover taxes and the cost to have the money transferred, and the prize money will be theirs for the claiming.
It happened to a Greencastle couple this week. The police have asked that their identity be protected, but they wanted the public to be aware of the situation.
Det. Mike Biggs, with the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, said the couple received a letter from a Canadian company by the name of International Sweepstakes Distribution of Saskatchewan. The letter said the couple had won $50,000 in an overseas sweepstakes. Along with the letter came a check, which turned out to be bogus, written for $2,754.
Biggs said the couple was instructed to cash the check out of their personal account and then send the money to the sweepstakes company to cover taxes and transfer fees. Once the $2,754 was received, the couple was promised their prize money would be sent to them -- at least that's what the letter claimed.
Fortunately the couple had enough fortitude to investigate the situation before cashing the check, Biggs said. When they did, they discovered the letter was a scam.
These types of crimes are hard to track because they are so widespread and often originate in foreign countries and they are becoming more common.
In the case of the Greencastle couple, Biggs said he took the report and forwarded it on to the appropriate federal or state agency. Other than there, there's little that local officials can do to investigate these types of scams, he said.
One thing that local law enforcement have going for them is that people are becoming more aware of the scams and are less likely to be duped. Local banks have become more aware, Biggs said, and in the case of the Greencastle couple this week, their suspicions were aroused when the couple brought the check to them.
But unfortunately, some people still fall for the scam and it's often the older population. Biggs said he hopes locally that people will take note of the recent case and be wiser to the problem.
He encouraged anyone who has received this or any other similar letters to contact the sheriff's department at 653-3211.
He said he is not aware of any other cases occurring recently in the local area.