(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
Brenda Barger of Leachville and her daughter, Nikki, want to warn everyone about a scam which made its way to their mailbox.
"It looked official, the man said all of the right things, and familiar names were used on the check and the sweepstakes notice," Mrs. Barger said.
The old saying, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, certainly fits this situation.
Mrs. Barger said her daughter received a letter informing her she had won the Reader's Digest Publishing Clearing House Sweepstakes. Enclosed was an official looking check supposedly from A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in the amount of $2,740.20. There was a number to call for further instructions.
"We were informed Nikki had won $56,000," Mrs. Barger said. "The scam artist was very clever. He said since the check was in my daughter's name, he would have to have permission from her to speak to me about the contest. He said he realized he could not ask for any personal information such as social security number, or bank account numbers. He gave her a pin number."
Barger said she got suspicious when he told them to deposit the check into their personal account and call him back. He would give them instructions. They were to send back $2,600 and the extra would be theirs to keep. He said they would then bring the $56,000 to them in person.
"The red flags were there," Nikki, a senior at Buffalo Island High School, said. "For one thing, I had not entered any type of contest. Being only 17 years old, I probably would not have been eligible to win a sweepstakes. It looked so official and so real we did hope for a moment it was for real."
Mrs. Barger showed it to a couple of friends who also thought it looked legitimate.
"I took it to Heritage Bank and talked to Charlotte Imler," Barger said. "She was very helpful. She told me she did not think it was the real thing. She made a couple of telephone calls giving me the telephone number of A.G. Edwards cash control office so I could check it out myself. I called them and was told it was a fraud and not to try to cash or deposit the check."
Mrs. Barger said she was not surprised but could not help but be a little disappointed. She was going to try to get more information from the man when she called back. She told him she had deposited the check but when he asked her the third time if she had deposited it, she said she could not lie and "went off" on him telling him she knew it was a scam and he should be ashamed of himself. When she asked him why he would do such a thing the only answer she received was, "I have to work."
When Nikki came home she also called him to give him a piece of her mind but he hung up on her.
"The notice was mailed from the Virgin Islands but when the telephone numbers were checked I learned I was calling a number in Ontario, Canada," Mrs. Barger said.
"If you are told you have won something, but you have to send money, something is not right," Nikki said.
"When I first received the check I was thanking God for the money, but it did not take me long to thank God I realized it was a scam before I made a costly mistake." Mrs. Barger said. "If I had followed the instructions I was given, I would have been liable. I also appreciate Charlotte Imler for taking time to help me."
Barger had torn the check up when she received a call from a representative of AG Edwards wanting to see the check. She taped it back together and plans on sending it to them.
"Something like this takes away our trust," Mrs. Barger said. "If Publishing Clearing House came to my door, I wouldn't even believe it until I got the police to come and check it out. It makes me sad to think there may be senior citizens out there getting ripped off."