Bruce Murphy is the owner of Bruce’s Floor Cleaning Service here in Canton and I have his permission to share this story with you.
One day in the mail, Bruce received a letter from the “Embassy Lottery Company of New York & London.” There was a check in the letter, drawn on the Presidio Bank in California against the account of a company called City Lights. Inc. The letter said Bruce had won a big prize.
Bruce did everything absolutely 100% right in this situation. And he hopes his experience will help other people in town avoid being scammed.
First of all, he was immediately suspicious of the letter. It was “poorly-formatted with too many different typefaces,” Bruce said. And he thought “there’d be a nice stationery” if it was for real. Plus the letter said he was a winner but he thought if that was true there’d be more details. Just a large check in the mail from a company he’d never heard of and a lottery he didn’t remember entering – it just seemed “kind of odd,” Bruce told me.
All excellent initial observations on Bruce’s part! But he wasn’t sure if it was a scam. He wasn’t sure what it was. Then Bruce made his next move. And it was a very smart one. He took the letter and the check, drove to the Canton Police Station and showed them to the officer at the front desk.
The police were able to quickly confirm Bruce’s suspicions. The letter was a scam. The check – which even had one of those hologram padlock security features – probably was a genuine check that perhaps had been stolen from City Lights, Inc.
When the police asked Bruce if he wanted them to destroy the letter and check, Bruce said, “No. I want to show it to Nick Maffeo over at Canton Co-operative Bank.” Bruce wanted to be sure we knew about this scam so we could warn other people. He thought it might be news to us.
Unfortunately I had to tell Bruce that we see these scams all the time. It’s checks in letters. Or phone calls about winnings. Emails – so many emails. In fact, the day after Bruce came into the Bank, I received an email in my personal account saying I had “won” $18 million. When I told this story to a colleague, she said she had just received an email saying someone wanted to “donate” $3 million to her.
In most cases, the scammers don’t care who they’re targeting. They’re just looking for someone who will respond at all – even a tiny bit – so they can try to reel them in.
Sometimes scammers do try to target senior citizens, believing older people might be more lonely and open to making a new friend.
How do you avoid being taken — no matter what your age? Easy! First, presume you’re looking at a fake because 99.9999999% of the time you are. Don’t panic. Never feel pressured to act in a hurry. Do a Google search with whatever keywords you have plus “scam”, if you’re comfortable with that. Or go see the police or your local bank. As I always say (and I’m sure the police agree), if you’re really a winner, we will be 100% delighted to confirm that for you. And if we can save you from being scammed, we’ll be even happier.
Also – if you’re a senior citizen or you know a senior citizen who might benefit from good resources and excellent local programs and activities – contact Diane Tynan at the Canton Council On Aging/Canton Senior Center, 781-828-1323. There’s a lot going on at the Canton Senior Center. We’re very lucky to have them here in town.
Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank in Canton. “Smart About Money” is a regular column he writes for the Canton Citizen. Have a financial question you’d like to ask? Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.