ADA – Randy Doud knew there was something fishy about the check he received in the mail Friday afternoon. After all, he'd never entered the Rotterdam International Lotto contest, and yet — somehow — he'd won third place.

According to a letter mailed from somewhere in Canada, all Doud had to do was cash the $1,998 check and call a long distance phone number to find out how to claim the remainder of his $85,000 prize. His initial check was reportedly an "up front" payment intended to cover the income taxes on his winnings. But Doud didn't cash the check, and it's a very good thing. He called his local bank, Ada's Vision Bank, and was told to be very careful before he cashed or deposited the check. He then called the bank listed on the check he received, San Joaquin Bank in Bakersfield, Calif., and was assured the check was part of a massive scam.

A Texas man who nearly fell victim to the scam wrote about his incident on an Internet fraud reporting website. He said victims would be told to cash the check and use part of the money from that initial check to purchase a money order that should be sent back to the lottery company as a "processing fee" for the big payoff.

He said victims would then be told by their bank the initial check was a fraud, and that they would now be responsible for covering the entire cost of that check.

"I told them I had a check I thought was fraudulent, and they right away asked me if it was sent to me by the ALC Financial Group," Doud said. "That's when I knew for sure that it was a scam."

Doud brought the check and its accompanying letter to the Ada Evening News, hoping he could publicize the fraud and save others from being victimized.

In the AEN offices, Doud called the "prize claim" number listed on the letter and asked what he needed to do to claim the rest of his "winnings". The woman who answered told him to cash the check and call back for further instructions. When he asked why the California bank had told him the check was a fraud, the conversation quickly came to an end.

AEN contacted the San Joaquin Bank and spoke with supervisor Linda Patterson, who said the bank had received "hundreds" of calls about ALC Financial checks from people all across the United States. She said the checks began going out across the country in October 2006. She would not speculate how many people might have fallen for the scam, but did say the amounts of the initial checks had grown smaller in recent months.

"When this first started last fall, a lot of the checks were for nearly $5,000," Patterson said. "But I think they started making the checks for a lesser amount because they thought people might be less suspicious."

Patterson said bank officials and several victims had notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the scam, but had been told there was little that could be done because those responsible did business in Canada and other countries.

Doud said he appreciated Vision Bank officials for being quick to warn him about the possible fraud, and encouraged others to be wary of this or similar scams.

"It is sad that people want easy money so bad they're willing to think they won a lottery they didn't even enter," he said. "But I do know people who would have just cashed the check and then found out later they'd been scammed. If they can't catch and stop these people, at least we need to let people know to use common sense and not fall for these kinds of things."

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