New scam offers women shopping check

HOUSTON Recipients receive a check for what they are told is a large shopping spree, but police said it can be disastrous for the bank account.

"I opened it up and a check fell out, and I was like, 'Wow, a check,'" Karen Furia, a potential victim, said.

Furia's check was for $4,850 and the letter that came along with it said she had won a $200,000 shopping spree. To get the rest of the cash, Furia had to deposit the check into her account and then use Western Union to wire back $2,500 to cover the taxes.

"It looks pretty real, but I don't see why I would have to send $2,500 to get my money," Furia said.

If she had followed the instructions, police said the transfer would have wiped out Furia's bank account. It can take a bank more than a week to determine a fake check is not the real deal, and once they do, the person who deposited the check must repay the money.

Furia is not the only one receiving the good news.

"My friend says she gets several offers a week -- she gets one every other week," she said. "She says she just throws them away."

"We are seeing an average of 10-12 (of these checks) a week in the Houston area," said Houston police Lt. Robert Monzo.

Police hear nearly daily from someone who got a check and actually deposited the forgery.

"It is not only in the Houston area," he said. "It is all over the country, and unfortunately, my sense is that because in part of the difficult economic time, people are being taken advantage of."

Monzo said the scams currently circulating take a couple of common forms -- people are told they have a job as a mystery shopper or they are told they have won a shopping spree. Both scams come with the fake checks and instructions to wire money to someone out of the country, he said.

There are two tips people can watch for to determine if the check is fake: the checks usually come in an envelope with a Canadian postage stamp and they ask you to wire money out of the country.

If you receive a fake check, contact your local authorities, but do not deposit the money. Banks will seize the available funds until you can repay the difference.

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