Jack Simpson - 05/15/09

It has been raining a lot lately keeping many people inside and away from spring yard work. You might be watching a favorite soap opera or preparing something for dinner when the telephone rings.

You say, "Hello," and a man tells you he is an attorney from Washington, D.C., and implies he is representing a "Cash Awards Contest" you have entered and wants you to verify who you are by repeating to him your name, address, etc. He tells you that he understands you do not like publicity and do not want it reported in the media that you have won third prize in this contest. When you verify that you do not like publicity, he says you are protected under the "Consumers Protection Law, Section XXX, and that his firm will not be allowed to report the fact that you won a cash award for a period of five to 15 years, and that, likewise, you will not be able to tell anyone you won this prize for a period of two weeks after he has deposited the funds into your account!" He never does disclose to you the amount of the third prize except to say that it is a sizable amount and it will be deposited into your bank account.

This man carefully avoids answering any of your inquiries about where you entered this contest, when you entered this contest, and all the while keeps asking you to verify your name, address and other pertinent information he wants to know. By this time the red flags are flying, and you can be very happy you never fell off the turnip truck! The first suspicious indication that this was not legitimate was the fact that he said he was calling from Washington, D.C. when the Caller ID on the telephone clearly had the call originating from Montreal, PQ!

All the while you are wondering how you are able to win third prize in a contest you never entered. When you ask, the lawyer replies that your name has been in their system for years and has just now been chosen to win a prize! Yeah, sure!

Right about now, you might inquire, "What are you phishing for, Mr. Attorney?" He assures you he is not fishing for anything, that the award is legitimate and that the Cash Awards he represents is owned by the same company that owns Publishers Clearing House. When you inquire again of him where you entered this contest and when, he cannot answer you and figures you are onto his little scam and disconnects the call. He has never indicated the amount of the prize to you, but you figure his next bit of information would be to ask for your banking information and account number.

After he disconnects the call, you do some investigating. Check his name on your computer for lawyers in D.C. and Montreal. He isn't listed. Notify AT&T Fraud people, and they probably will tell you this is a scam well known to them, and that you were very smart to be so wise to what he was trying to do to you in the first place.

You may find right now there are several ongoing scams coming out of Canada, allegedly sponsored by Reader's Digest, Microsoft and Publishers Clearing House.

In the present economy, dishonest individuals are looking for any way they can to separate hardworking Americans from their savings. It is a bad world out there and no time to get careless and drop your guard. That old saying is more true than ever before. There is no free lunch. If an offer of reward sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Those who have fallen for one of these scams are telling the rest of us to "wise up." Don't be gullible.

If you get a call from a phony lawyer telling you that you have won a sizable sum of money and you have to pre-pay taxes on it, or you have to give out your personal data so it can be deposited into your bank account ... hang up on him!

Senior citizens living alone are often targets of these crooks. Don't be one of their victims!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.