Beware of Aflac Sweepstakes Scam with Counterfeit Checks

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Open your e-mail account and check the spam/junk folder --and more likely than not, you will find at least one message claiming that you've won some sort of sweepstakes or lottery. These e-mails come from strangers who harvest e-mails from all over the Internet and send out these "You've won!" scripts. These scams are nothing new, but the latest version of this old familiar con is borrowing yet another very familiar name.  Aflac Insurance recently released an alert to warn consumers that its name is being used on counterfeit checks as part of a sweepstakes scam. This scam has already shown up in multiple states and Aflac is working with the FBI in hopes of shutting down the scammers who are sending out the fake checks.

The scammers running the scam are sending out letters that tell potential victims that they have won a sweepstakes sponsored by Aflac.  A check is included with the letter to cover charges associated with winning the sweepstakes, often described as taxes or processing fees.  The "winner" is supposed to cash the check and wire the funds to a sweepstakes agent who will pay the taxes or other fees so that the full amount of the sweepstakes winnings can be paid.

Just like any other check scam, you know what happens next.  The victim cashes the check and sends off the money, excited to have won a sweepstakes he doesn't remember entering.  A few days later he receives notice from his bank that the check was counterfeit and that they had to repay the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that they had wired to the scammer.  By that point, of course, the scammer will have moved on to the next batch of fake sweepstakes letters in hopes of luring in even more unsuspecting victims.

Though it's obvious that the Aflac isn't actually involved with the scam, the fact that they offer a well-known brand of insurance may actually be playing in the scammers' favor.  There are normally limits on the size of a check that banks will accept without holding the funds to make sure that the check clears.  It's not unusual for individuals receiving an insurance settlement to receive several thousand dollars, however, so scammers using the Aflac brand can potentially get more out of their victims than they would be able to otherwise.

The lure of getting something for nothing can be powerful, but if you receive a letter like this it's important not to let excitement outweigh your common sense.  Think about whether you have any connection to the company that is supposedly sponsoring the sweepstakes that would cause you to be entered into their sweepstakes automatically; while some companies do occasionally offer giveaways to their customers, if you don't have a relationship with the company then you'd have to manually enter such a sweepstakes.

You can also do a quick search online to figure out if that company is actually sponsoring a sweepstakes since if they are then there will be some sort of advertisement or official acknowledgement of the fact.  You can also be sure that no sweepstakes will require you to cash a check and wire it to someone in order to receive your winnings; that's a sure sign of a scam.

If you do receive a letter and check like this in the mail, contact your local police department to report it.  Letting the police know when you receive fraudulent documents by mail can not only allow them to warn others in your area but may aid in the investigation to find these scammers as well.

Do report fraud incidents to the appropriate local, state or federal law enforcement and regulatory authorities.

Internet complaints can be easily reported to the FTC  (see below video) and The Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Information is empowering ---and it is often your best defense against fraud. Familiarize yourself with a few of the latest scam techniques and you'll be less likely to fall victim to fraud

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