Lucky to avoid scam

This letter was sent to Arelette Martinez, who nearly fell for the wire-transfer scam it proposed. She now wants to warn others to be on the lookout for similar scams. Photo courtesy of Arlette Martinez

A Throggs Neck woman received a letter indicating that it was her lucky day, and that she had won $250,000. However, optimism soon turned into dismay when her bank informed her that she was the victim of a scam. She almost lost nearly $4000.

Arelette Martinez, received a letter from a bogus Canadian company called All State Financial recently, saying that she was the winner of a “consumer promotion draw organized from all customers of major stores in the U.S.A. and Canada, [including] Wal-Mart, Sears, Home Depot, Safeway, etc.”

Remembering she had shopped at Wal-Mart over the summer, Martinez decided to follow up on the letter, which included a $4,970 check for the payment of Canadian taxes. Martinez went to Chase Bank and deposited the check, which required about five days to process.

She planned on wiring $3,970 for the payment of Canadian taxes to an address on the letter. She stayed in contact with her claims agent named Jenna Woods, who would process the prize.

“The person I spoke to on the phone said that she would send a check by UPS for the $250,000 prize, but that I had to put the first check into my bank account and then send the tax payment from my account,” Martinez said. “I was thinking that their check would clear in a couple of days. On Wednesday, they said send us the [tax] money and the check would be here on Friday.”

However, when she sat down with her banker to discuss what had happened, she was informed that she was participating in a scam.

“The bank fed the check through their processing machine, and it registered as a real check,” Martinez said. “I showed the bank representative the letter. The scammer hung up when I called from the bank and asked to be passed through to the person who is named at the top of the letter – the person in charge. The bank representative wanted me to see that it was a scam.” The check that was supposed to cover the “tax” expenses eventually bounced.

Martinez reached out to Councilman Jimmy Vacca because she wanted to alert him to the scam.

“Like the old adage says, ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Vacca said. “People need to be wary of any service or group they do not know. When in doubt you can always call my office to try to find out whether a particular organization is reputable.”

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