Beware of E-Mail Scams

Thousands of people are falling for a scam on the Internet that starts with e-mails that arrive in your inbox from out of the blue. The e-mails are about an inheritance, political problems or a lottery win, with an urgent need to get money into the United States.

"All you have to do is cash a check and send back part of the money to the sender," Dr. Phil explains. "Then the person disappears with the money, and the check you have bounces, leaving you with a loss." He warns that the scam is tricky because the scammer offers to send the victim money, in the form of a check. The victim cashes the check and sends part of the money back to the scammer before the scammer's check has finished making its way through the banking system. When the check finally does make its way through, it bounces, leaving the victim responsible to their bank for the money. "Don't think it's safe because they're going to send you money," warns Dr. Phil.

Phrases to look for to spot a bogus e-mail:

  • Urgent, confidential business proposal
  • Money stuck in a dormant, unserviceable account
  • Must move money out of the country A.S.A.P.
  • Government will confiscate
  • Transfer money, need the help of a foreigner
  • "I will share the funds."

"Retired people have lost their nest eggs," Dr. Phil says. "The average victim is bilked out of $3,000 to $4,000."

If you receive one of these fake check scam e-mails, report it to the Federal Trade Commission on their toll-free hotline, (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357), or file an online complaint.

You can also contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, or your local police at a non-emergency phone number.

In Canada, call the Canadian PhoneBusters hotline at (888) 495-8501.

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