Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I was contacted by a close friend of the family this weekend who had received a large check drawn on a Canadian bank in the amount of $85,000 together with a letter urging the friend to cash the check and the then send a check for $7500 to cover taxes due. This was the now infamous Canadian Lottery Scam, in which good looking but bogus checks are sent for supposed lottery winnings. The victim is asked to pay a fee, in this case $7500 as soon as the check is deposited.

Fortunately for the family friend they did not immediately write a check but instead waited for the check to clear the bank. Of course the check bounced – it was a good looking but very bad check.

However, the friend of the family wanted to know why the check bounced. After all they had won a lottery. Should they resubmit the check? Clearly something had gone wrong. Perhaps they should pay the $7500 first and then resubmit the check again.

Patiently I explained that this was a well known fraud. However the family friend did not want to hear this. They wanted to believe that this “too good to be true” opportunity for significant gains was real. Our family friend became heated in the argument. Insisting again and again that it must be real because the check was clearly a real check. And that taxes were clearly due. And that the could really use the money.

“Did you enter a lottery in Canada” I asked. “No” was the reply. “Did the check bounce?” I asked. “Yes” they said. “Is this too good to be true?” I asked again. ?Well yes, but I still think it’s valid” was the reply.

Finally the family friend, an elderly woman who clearly would benefit from any financial windfall, agreed not to send any money until the resubmitted check cleared the bank. She wanted to believe.

In this conversation I became the unreasonable person and hostility was directed toward me for informing her of a simple truth – it was a scam, there were no winnings.

The power of greed and of scams which appeal to this weakness in human nature continues to amaze us at KnightsBridge Castle. We have on occasion become the subjects of anger and resentment when we tell clients and potential clients that their supposed wonderful windfall is a nightmare fraud in disguise. I greatly hope the family friend will not send the money as requested by the fraudsters. However I am not really certain that she will follow our advice.

Greed and wishful thinking are as powerful as narcotics in clouding reason. Fraudsters rely on this weakness in our nature every day.


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