Scam targets Atmore

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, May 2, 2007

By By Adrienne McKenzie
Last week Kathy Byrd of Atmore opened her mail only to find she had been a victim of a check scam from Starluck Casino out of Canada.
The letter Byrd received in the mail stated she was a winner of $98,000. The $98,000 is supposedly from a total cash prize draw of $588,000 divided among six winners.
Enclosed with the letter was a check for $2,975 to cover the cost of the taxes on the $98,000 and instructions for Byrd to call her claims agent at Starluck Casino's main office.
"Enclosed is a check of $2,975 payable to you in order to facilitate the payment of your international taxes and clearance fees," the letter read. "This amount has been deducted from your total winnings."
Byrd said when she contacted Starluck Casino she was instructed to put the check into her bank account.
"The lady said for me to deposit the check," Byrd said. "She'd let me know when the rest of the money was ready."
The letter states that the six winners were chosen randomly by a computer system.
"All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from over 280,000 names in North America, Asia, Australia and Europe as part of our international promotions program conducted annually," the letter read. "We advise that you keep your award from public notice until your claim has been processed and your winnings are remitted to you to avoid double claiming or unwarranted abuse of this promotion."
The letter also states that Publishers Clearing House and Readers Digest are official sponsors for the "contest" Byrd had won. Byrd took the liberty of calling Publishers Clearing House and they informed her that they are not sponsors of any Starluck Casino contest.
Byrd said the check for $2,975 looked real but she knew it would bounce if she deposited it. She said Publishers Clearing House confirmed that notion.
"The check is a real, legitimate check," Byrd said. "I knew the check would bounce and Publishers Clearing House said they knew the check would bounce."
Byrd believes the check is a way to allow scammers to access individual's bank accounts.
"It's a way to get into your checking account and mess your life up," she said.
Publishers Clearing House associates told Byrd to also call Florida's fraud hotline.
"The Florida hotline wants the check to try to press charges against these people and to destroy the check," Byrd said.
Byrd is concerned about those people that would not understand that the "contest," along with the check, is a fraud and she wants to get the word out to the public to be careful.
"Be aware, that's a lot of money and somebody could cash it," she said. "I don't want anybody else to get into something like that."

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