Ohio's Department of Insurance is trying to spread the word about an international check scam that's issuing fake checks that seem to be from big-name insurance companies, including Nationwide.
Here's how it works: You get a letter with what looks like a $4,500 check from a reputable company. The letter congratulates you and says you've won $150,000 in a contest. You need only pay off the "non-resident government tax" to a British tax officer. You're told to cash the check and then wire most of the money to an address in the U.K. And to tell no one.
You can guess the rest. The wired money's gone, the bogus check doesn't cash, and of course there is no $150k waiting for you in some British shopping contest that you never entered.
Our investigators say that we haven't run into this one yet, but that it's just another variation on ever-popular "advance fee fraud," also known as the Nigerian scam, which in various forms dates back to at least the 1920s.
If you're looking for a smaller jackpot, however, punch your name into Washington state's unclaimed property site, run by the state's Department of Revenue. If you forgot an insurance deposit, last paycheck, utility deposit or bank safe deposit box, that's where all those things end up. The state-run site is legitimate. In fact, one of the biggest problems that the unclaimed property folks run into is trying to return money to skeptical residents who think it's some kind of scam.
(Never lived in Washington? Click here for other state's unclaimed property websites.)