Avoiding the scam artists

Scam artists are always looking for new ways to get your money or information. They modify their scams so they are more sophisticated and able to seduce more people. Sometimes, though, your bullshit meter just goes off and it’s hard to ignore.

Such was the case when a letter addressed to my wife was mailed to an address at which my wife has not lived in six years – this immediately caught us off guard. Now the address to which the letter was mailed is my mother-in-law’s house, which is how we learned of the letter, dated November 2, 2011. The letter was from a company called “Royal Marketing Company” of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the envelope bore a Canadian stamp. Everything I’ve found on this company, however, does not appear to be legitimate.

The letter informed her that she is the winner of a $9,700 cash prize, and they enclosed a check for $999.85 drawn on a bank in Chicago, Illinois. The check does appear to be legitimate. I even looked up the routing number on the check and it came back with the name of the bank on the check. But that is where the legitimacy ends, according to research I’ve found. Apparently the account number on the check is not any good. If you attempt to cash the check, the bank on which the check is drawn will reject the check and you become immediately liable for the balance of the check and probably some fees on top of that.

Further if you call in to the number on the letter, you will be asked to purchase a MoneyPak at Wal-Mart and provide the account number to them. This is a modification of the various money order scams that’ve plagued the Internet, where they send you a money order, ask you to cash that money order and send back a money order for only a little less than the original one, a “convenience fee”. Then when the money order comes back as bad, you’re left with one hell of a tab to pick up.

Now chances are the “Royal Marketing Company” has stopped doing business and the people who are behind it have probably started operations under a different name, and others have reported other company names on the letters.

Now how can they send a check that looks legitimate? The check is printed on bulk paper, which you can pick up online relatively cheap. There is software for printing checks as well, but the numbers at the bottom require a special kind of ink, which you can also buy online. These bulk checks are intended for use by companies who write a lot of checks, such as for payroll. But they can also be used to print up a ton of bogus checks to scam people.

For reference, here are the details on the letter my wife received:

Royal Marketing Company
5621 Vanderwood Way
Vancouver, BC
V5F 6N8

Phone: 1-289-892-4213

Letter was signed by a Mitchell Keaton (no actual signature) and asked us to call Nathan James. The check was written to a Chicago, Illinois, branch of the company but does not provide an actual Chicago address, and drawn on the Northern Trust Company, which is a legitimate financial services company in Chicago and a subsidiary of the Northern Trust Corporation. Again, though, the check itself is not legitimate.