Log Cabin Chronicles

The old Nigerian scam with a Canadian twist


BUDD LAKE, NJ | How many sweepstakes entries have you completed in your lifetime? How many Grand Prizes have you won?

I will admit that I am a glutton for these contests and have entered hundreds of them. Can't seem to pass them by, especially since they usually require no fee and someone has to win.

So now the question is: What would be the first emotion to come over you if you received a letter out of the blue notifying you that you had just won 80,000 bucks?

Would it be surprise, elation, joy, pride, happiness or some combination of these. Or would you be extremely skeptical? Let me tell you a story…

My notice came a few days ago in a very official looking letter from a Senior Vice President at Paystone Payment Solutions in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. It announced that the computer selected me (from 46,000 customers provided by store chains across North America) as the winner of prize money in the amount of $80,000 US.

It went on to say that this prize is unclaimed because their numerous attempts to notify me by telephone had failed.

ORANGE FLAG! Since I use only a cell phone, if they had dialed my number I would have been aware of it. Why would they say they made "numerous attempts" to phone me when I received not even one.

Now, the most interesting part of this notice was the enclosure of two US Postal Money Orders for $1000 each, on very official looking USPS money order stock and with my full name boldly shown on the "Pay to" line.

The letter contained an instruction that the $2000 represented the processing fees to be paid by me regarding my winnings, and that I had only a few days to respond and make my claim for the big prize.

RED FLAG! Why send me $2000 in money orders and ask me to send back $2000 after cashing them (or before) so they can send me $80,000, less federal and state taxes.

The letter did include a request to telephone "my" account manager immediately for further instructions and assistance to claim my winnings. I phoned the number and listened to a recorded message that told me he was busy assisting other callers and that I should leave a message with my name and number.

This was followed by another message that said that there was no more room for messages. I tried again later and heard the same two messages.

At this point, my curiosity had the better of me. So I decided to visit my local Post Office to find out if I was holding two valid USPS money orders with a total value of $2000.

I presented one of the money orders to the postal clerk and she held it up to the light. She said she could not see the watermark and went to find the postmaster. While waiting, I noticed on the reverse of the money order a warning to the cashier to "hold to light and check for security thread.

The clerk came back with the postmaster who informed me that these money orders were counterfeit.

I showed him my letter and he said this was just another scam and since the origin was out of the US, there was little that could be done to legally to prosecute the thieves, even for what I considered to be the felony crime of counterfeiting USPS dollar-based documents.

The postmaster offered to take the two money orders so he could send them to the Postal Inspector Service, or he could give me the Inspector Service's telephone number so I could deal directly with them. I chose the latter course, but before doing so, I am creating a file with the complete story as I see it, and will soon release the letter and money orders to the Inspector Service.

I did telephone the Postal Inspector Service and all I was told was that I should send the letter and the two money orders to them so that they could do an investigation. I intend to do this.

In conclusion, all that can be said is that there are new and innovative scams being developed all the time by unscrupulous ne'er do wells whose goal is to tempt the greedy with promises that won't be kept, then fleecing the unwary. In this case, had I been able to cash the money orders and then send the money to Canada as my processing fee for the cash prize, does anyone really believe that I would have collected the $80,000? And then how long would it have taken the US Postal Inspector Service to identify the counterfeits and then prosecute me as a felon for cashing them?

What all this once again proves is that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

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Copyright © 2006 Raymond Goyette/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.06