“I’ve never dealt with Citi Financial in Pocatello,” says Cece, a Boise resident. “We’re unsure of why they would be sending this prize notice to us. And, the woman on the addressed check has never lived at this address.”
Cece says she received the check with direction to cash it, and to send off money ($960) to promotion manager Mina Wilson, or tax officer Victoria Bacon, or her payment handling officer Marvin Anderson or Linda Robinson. All based in England, according to the letter she’d received.
“That part didn’t sit well with me at all,” she says. She was to receive a $50,000 promotion draw, after she paid the taxes with a check from Texas Security General Insurance Agency.
Snake River Region residents have received letters from different branches that really no longer exist since Summer 2011. In 2010, CitiFinancial (note no space), the consumer lending arm of Citigroup, changed its name to OneMain Financial. At the time, the name change was made to identity who the company is and what it does.
BBB looked up the phone number in the directory. An operator answered, “OneMain Financial,” after calling both the Idaho Falls and Pocatello listings. He confirmed the mortgage broker was not giving away money, and referred BBB to corporate headquarters.
This common scheme involves a counterfeit cashier’s check, traditionally considered a trusted form of payment. Unfortunately, high quality printers and scanners is making it easier for counterfeiters to produce official-looking checks of all types and caliber, including cashier’s checks.
When a consumer deposits the counterfeit check in a bank account, it’s returned a few days later, asks the financial institution if the money is “available.” When told yes, the consumer assumes that they can safely draw upon that money. That is not the case!
Until the financial institution can confirm the funds have been “finally collected”, the consumer is responsible for any funds they may withdraw against that check deposit. The amount of time it can take for the bank to finally collect the money can vary, particularly with out-of-state or out-of-country checks.
In most cases, victims report they wired money, to pay a clearance fee or taxes out of their “winnings” check, only to find the deposited check was uncollectible or counterfeit.
BBB and State Attorney General offer tips to check the legitimacy of checks you receive from people or businesses that you do not know:
- Independently verify that the check is drawn from an actual account at a legitimate financial institution. Do not rely on the telephone number listed on the check. Use directory assistance to get the telephone number of the financial institution and call them to verify the check.
- Do not rely on the money until the funds have been finally collected by your financial institution. Funds “availability” is not good enough.
- If you have any questions about whether a transaction is legitimate, talk to your bank or credit union.