An Idaho Falls business is one of the latest to be victimized by a long-running "pay forward" check scheme. According to a news release from the Better Business Bureau, a Florida woman received notification she was a winner of the "Consumer Promotion Sweepstakes Drawing" including a check from multi-level marketer Melaleuca.
BBB said the woman was directed to deposit the $3,850 check and use part of the money to pay a $1,920 "tax clearance fee" to get the rest of her $75,000 winnings. The woman's husband, however, checked with the Idaho Falls BBB to determine if the offer was legitimate. The bureau said the initial check was counterfeit.
Melaleuca officials are aware their bank account information was being used in a scam, and company officials are now taking precautions.
The Better Business Bureau said the "pay-forward" checks scheme has skyrocketed with the advent of high quality printers and scammers. The companies, like Melaleuca, are innocent victims of scammers stealing their identity as part of the scheme.
BBB offered this advice:
• Ask yourself if there is anything suspicious about the transaction. For example, have you been told you have won a prize and need to act quickly, or need to keep your winnings quiet while your claim is being processed?
• Independently verify the check is drawn on a legitimate financial institution or company, and represents an actual account. Do not rely on the telephone number listed on the check. Use directory assistance to get the telephone number of the financial institution or company and call them to verify the check. If contacted by email, open a separate web browser, do not click on links.
• Do not send any merchandise or rely on the money until your financial institution has finally collected the funds. Money made available is not good enough.
• If you have any questions about whether a transaction is legitimate, talk directly to your banker or credit union representative.