No free lunch: Tacoma woman recognizes sweepstakes scam, wants to warn others

The Tacoma woman who received a check for $10,732.49 from Publishers Clearing House somehow knew the check wasn’t from Publishers Clearing House and that it wasn’t worth 10 cents, much less 10 grand.

There were a few clues. First of all, Citizen Guarantee Bank is not located in Milwaukee, as the check stated. It’s in Kentucky.

Second, the Publishers Clearing House website offers a prominent section called “Five Ways to Know If It’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.”

Third, well, a spokeswoman for the real Citizen Guarantee Bank in Kentucky said it best: “If it’s free money, it’s not real.” She said Tuesday she has heard from many people wanting to cash their cashier’s checks, which, like the money, are not real.

“It’s going on everywhere,” she said of the letter and the scam. “People actually believe it.”

Yes, there’s an official-looking “Reference Number” with lots of capital letters, numbers and punctuation. There’s also a longer and equally official “Batch Number.” There’s a dated stamp from the “International Lottery Commission,” which doesn’t actually exist.

So a tip of the Good Deed Hat to the Tacoma woman who called, the one who received the check and was smart enough to know the truth and nice enough to want to warn others.

Consider yourself warned.

If you get a check, tear it up. Recycle it. Don’t call the special number (somewhere in Canada) and speak to Mr. Michael Diaz, the specified “claim agent.”

Actually, feel free to call him (at 604-375-3558, in Canada, so it’s long distance). The News Tribune called on Tuesday. Mr. Diaz’s voice was pleasant enough when he figured we were going to send him a lot of money in order to qualify for the secret code needed to cash the cashier’s check, but then when we told him who we really are, he hung up.

Just like that. He hung up.