The Investigators - I can't believe it's a scam - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators - I can't believe it's a scam

By Andy Wise - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

COURTLAND, MS (WMC TV) - Mary Sanford-Robinson needs saving.  From herself.

You see, she received a $4,950 check in the mail from the Ontario, Canada, payment department of the USA Mega Ball Millions company.  The accompanying correspondence says she won the Mega Ball lottery.

There's just one thing.  She never entered the USA Mega Ball Millions lottery. 

The USA Mega Ball Millions doesn't have a payment department in Canada, either.

I think you know where I'm going with this. 

It's another one of those counterfeit check scams, which always have the same three components (see at the bottom of this story).

But that didn't stop Sanford-Robinson from trying to cash the check at several Panola County, MS, check-cashing companies.  All of them refused.  One of them did the smart thing, turning it over to the Batesville, MS, police department.

Here's the part of the story where you'll start pulling your hair out.

Batesville Police Capt. Paul Shivers said twice a week, for two months, Sanford-Robinson has riddled the department with harassing voice mail messages.

She wants her check back.

"We tried to explain to her that we're trying to look out for (her) best interest," said Shivers.  "She could be held criminally liable if she cashed that check and could go to jail.

"But she seems to feel that her and her sons have every right to this money."

Sanford-Robinson acknowledged to Action News 5 that she could go to jail.  But despite our explanation of the scam and how 1,200 folks have cashed the checks only to discover the checks bounce and become THEIR liabilities, she still seemed confused.

"Well, I don't know," she said.  "We received a promotion, and I don't know what to think.  I called the company and verified that the check was good."

The Action News 5 Investigators confirmed the number she called -- the one on the "promotion" -- belongs to whoever's perpetrating the scam, not the real Mega Ball lottery or its affiliations.

In fact, Shivers received a letter from Manufacturers Bank in Los Angeles, the real bank named on the check.  The letter, signed by the bank's vice president and loss prevention manager, confirmed the check is a "counterfeit item that will not be honored by Manufacturers Bank if presented for payment."

Still, Sanford-Robinson won't budge.

"She just doesn't understand it," Shivers said.

We showed Sanford-Robinson's interview to Dr. Jim Whelan, a psychologist who runs the University of Memphis Gambling Clinic.  He said she's experiencing what's called a "confirmation bias."

Whelan said she'll only listen to someone who will "confirm" the check is real.

"She's invested in this being real, in this being true because she wants it and she needs it and she's dreamt about it," said Whelan.  "When other information comes in that doesn't fit with it, there's a tendency to ignore it or to reject it or find reasons to reject it."

Before Action News 5 ended our interview, Sanford-Robinson finally agreed it is a scam.  That's what she told us, anyway.

But since our interview, Shivers has said she has threatened to sue the police department to get the check.

What's ironic is the police department can't give her the check even if it wanted to give her the check.  That would be ILLEGAL -- the passing of a bad check.

The Action News 5 Investigators continue to be amazed at how many people fall for these check scams.  It's like any other "Nigerian Letter" scam, with all the tell-tale signs, yet people still fall for it.

It has different company names, logos and sales pitches, but they all include these three elements:

* IT'S UNSOLICITED.  It just shows up in your mailbox.  That's red flag #1.  You didn't ask for it.  It just showed up in your mailbox.  That is a scam, each and every time - repeat - each and every time.

* IT INCLUDES A CHECK.  The letter has a check, usually almost $5,000, that you're supposed to deposit into your checking account.  It is COUNTERFEIT.

* IT REQUIRES A WIRE TRANSFER.  The instructions say keep a portion of the money, but you must wire part of it back as a "tax," a "fee" or "shipping & handling."  The check bounces, you forward legitimate money out of your bank account, and now you're out the money you transferred, plus you're criminally liable for the counterfeit amount.  Gotcha!

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