BOGUS LETTER TOUTS
AND A WORTHLESS CHECK
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer,
warned Floridians to be on the lookout for a bogus
letter telling them they’ve won a contest and urging
them to send a check to collect the prize. Florida
is among several states whose residents have been
targeted by this scheme in recent weeks.
The letter is on forged MAG Mutual Insurance Company
stationery and implies the recipient has won
$250,000 in a contest. The letter includes a
worthless check for about $2,900 to cover
“administrative payment and clearance fees” and asks
the recipient to deposit the check and then write
one of their own for the costs of receiving the
“We are working with company representatives and
other state’s law enforcement agencies to track down
the perpetrators of this scam,” said Gallagher, who
oversees the Department of Financial Services’
Division of Insurance Fraud, which was initially
alerted to the scam in recent days. “We will not
tolerate anyone trying to steal our citizens’
The scam perpetrators seek to receive and cash the
recipient’s check before they or their bank realizes
the check sent with the letter is worthless. So far,
only one Floridian has reported receiving the
letter. Anyone who gets one of the letters is urged
to call the department’s Fraud Fighters’ hotline at
Gallagher said this is an advance fee scheme that
occurs when the victim pays money to someone
promising something of greater value – such as a
loan, contract, investment, or gift – and then
receives nothing in return.
Gallagher, who also oversees the Bureau of Unclaimed
Property, said these schemes may also tout found
money or property and ask the consumer to forward a
finder’s fee; however, too often the “finder” never
has the intention or the ability to help the victim.
Florida’s unclaimed property laws prohibit the
solicitation or acceptance of a fee in advance for
notifying or assisting someone with a claim for
unclaimed property. Only registered locators can
lawfully solicit and receive a fee, and then, can
only do so after a claim is approved and paid.
Gallagher offered the following tips on how to avoid
such a scam:
• If the offer of an "opportunity" appears too good
to be true, it probably is.
• Know with whom you are dealing. If you have not
heard of a person or company with whom you intend to
do business, learn more about them. Depending on the
amount of money that you intend to spend, you may
want to visit the business location, check with the
Better Business Bureau or consult with your bank, an
attorney, or the police.
• Make sure you fully understand any business
agreement that you enter into. If the terms are
complex, have them reviewed by a competent attorney.
• Be wary of businesses that operate out of post
office boxes or mail drops and do not have a street
address; be wary of dealing with persons who do not
have direct telephone lines and who are never "in"
when you call but return your call later.
• Be wary of business deals that require you to sign
nondisclosure or noncircumvention agreements that
are designed to prevent you from independently
verifying the identification of the people with whom
you would do business. Con artists often use
noncircumvention agreements to threaten their
victims with civil suits if they report their losses
to law enforcement.
“We urge anyone who may have information about this
scheme to call our hotline and report it,” Gallagher
said. “These schemes often prey on those who can
least afford it.”
The Department of Financial Services, Division of
Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud
in insurance, including health, life, auto, property
and workers' compensation insurance. The Fraud
Fighters Hotline is 1-800-378-0445. Complaints may
also be made via the department’s web site at