Bedford residents deal with bogus checks

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By Tom Wilmoth

Laurie Burgin was excited when she got a letter and check from Direct Financial Services. According to the letter, Burgin had won $450,000 and the initial check of $4,800 was provided to help pay for the taxes she would incur.

“You talk about a high. ...I had a bubble built up you wouldn't believe,” said Burgin about her supposed good fortune. “But I went from an extreme high to an extreme low.”

That occurred after she began to check into the truthfulness of the letter and the check. Neither checked out.

“My bank told me it wasn't any good,” she said of the check, stating that there wasn't any money in that account to cover the check. If she had cashed it, Burgin would have been out the $4,800. “The police told me to shred it, which is what I'm going to do.”

Burgin likes to enter sweepstakes and she thought finally her efforts had paid off to the tune of $450,000. “Unfortunately I'm a gullible person,” she said. But that didn't mean she wasn't willing to follow up on the perpetrators of the scam.

Burgin called the number provided in the letter and talked with her “claims agent,” telling him her bank said the check wasn't any good.

“He said: 'Why did you take it to the bank?'” Burgin said of the check. Then, after telling her never to call him again, “He hung up on me,” she said.

Burgin filed a report with the Bedford Police Department and also called the company listed on the letter. She said she hates that people would try to “rip people off.”

“I just don't want to see anybody lose their money to something like that,” she said. “It makes me mad.”

Calls to the telephone number provided in the letter for the company, which is based in Canada, did not go through Tuesday. The company listed on the letter was listed as Direct Financial Services of Nova Scotia. There were several typographical errors in the letter, which stated, in part, that Burgin had matched the first five lucky winning numbers and won $450,000. The letter stated that payment would be made by certified check and delivered by “our special courier company.”

The letter directed Burgin to cash the $4,800 check that had been provided and send most of it —$3,650— to her “tax agent” in Nova Scotia through a Money Gram.

“I'm just trying to stop this thing from happening (to someone else),” Burgin said of making the scam known.

Bedford Police Chief Jim Day said several similar scams have been reported by Bedford residents since July.

In September, a Bedford man received a check from Allied Marketing Solutions in Canada. The letter told the man to cash the $2,565 check, using some of the proceeds to act as a “secret shopper” for their businesses. He was to spend $50 at Wal-Mart, $50 at another store and $20 for lunch and then send $2,250 of the remaining money back to company, with him keeping the rest. An easy several hundred dollars, right?

Not so fast.

The check was found to be counterfeit and once cashed, the man was responsible for reimbursing the bank. Day said the man didn't go through the entire process and he was later notified the check and business weren't real.

“These companies send these out in mass mailings,” Day said. “They're going to end up making a lot of money.”

He said there's little the police can do. “Realistically, we're not going to travel to other countries to try and find the suspects in these,” Day said.

The best the police can do is to caution people to be aware of scams. “Don't cash checks that are more than likely going to be fraudulent,” he said.

Day said two reports had also been filed with similar cases back in June.

One involved a check sent to a woman with a letter telling her to cash a $2,750 check, in connection with a work-at-home scheme, with her keeping 10 percent as her first month's commission. She was to send the rest back.

She deposited the check. “She did what this letter instructed her to do,” Day said. But it wasn't good and she was responsible to pay the money back to the bank.

Day had this advice: “If you get a check in the mail asking you to cash it for someone you don't know (and you do it), you will lose money.”