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 April 21st, 2010  
Don't send money to scam artists, warns St. Lucie County Sheriff Mascara, or you may be falling for the "Nigerian scam"
If you recently received an official looking check in the mail and a letter telling you that you've won a prize, a sweepstakes or a lottery jackpot, don't deposit that check in your account, warns St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara.

"That fancy check is worthless, and it's the latest variation of what law enforcement calls the 'Nigerian scam,'"Sheriff Mascara said.

"Here's how it works: You get a check in the mail with a letter claiming you've won a big-money prize. The letter says you should deposit the check, then send money to the sweepstakes company to cover expenses or taxes," said the Sheriff. "But don't put the check in your account. It's worthless. You will be financially responsible for covering that check, and the money you send out of town is money you have lost for good."

This is called the "Nigerian scam" because variations of this fraudulent scheme have been coming from Nigeria for many years. "Lately, these fraudulent letters have been sent to St. Lucie County residents with Canadian or Jamaican return addresses as well," Sheriff Mascara said.

He asks anyone who has received a "winning" check to call the Sheriff's Economic Crime Unit at 462-3230. "People can also bring the check to Sheriff's Office headquarters, during normal business hours Monday through Friday, at 4700 West Midway Road, Fort Pierce."

Sheriff Mascara this week will be sending a recorded message to a number of residential communities in St. Lucie County. "Sadly, this scam often is targeted at senior citizens and preying on their tendency to trust others," Sheriff Mascara said. * * *

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