U.S. Attorney Warns of 3 Current Scams

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Guam –   United States Attorney Alicia A.G. Limtiaco is warning the public that there are at least three scams circulating in Guam and in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Referral Scam:

The first scam works as follows: a law firm receives a referral from someone posing as an out-of-state attorney to enforce a simple contract dispute or collect a debt from a local corporation owed to a foreign company.  The law firm, believing that it is exercising due diligence, confirms that the prospective client is a real company, then enters into a fee agreement.  It sends a demand letter, and later receives a cashier’s check made payable to the law firm. The client is pleased and directs the law firm to wire the money, after deducting its fees and costs. The law firm deposits the money into a trust account, waits for the check to clear the law firm’s bank, and wires the money to the client. Things fall apart when the bank on which the check is drawn notifies everyone that the check is counterfeit, by which time it is usually too late to stop the wire transfer, and the law firm’s client trust account is now out the proceeds, which the law firm has to replace. The scam works because the law firm erroneously believes that the check is good when it clears the law firm’s bank.  However, that is not the case. The first clearance is only provisional.   Under Title 12, Sections 229.12 through 229.42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, a Pacific Island bank has additional time under the law to verify and scrutinize the check. 

Beware of similar circumstances.  Remember, those engaged in these schemes are devious and will use the names of actual companies, client contacts and referring attorneys in an effort to sell the scam.

If you suspect that you have encountered a similar situation, independently verify the names and contact information provided to you and do not disburse the deposited funds until you have consulted with the bank/banks referenced and received its/their certification that the check was drawn upon a valid account.  This may take several weeks.  If you suspect a scam, contact the U.S. Secret Service at (671) 472-7395 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (671) 472-7422. 

The Grant Scam

The second scam is one where someone calls on the telephone telling you that you have received a free grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.  It may sound legitimate because the caller will give you his/her name, a control number and telephone numbers to call Washington, D.C. to claim your grant.   However, the caller will tell you that you need to pay a fee to receive the grant.  The caller is persistent, sometimes calling back to follow-up if you have not yet called the telephone numbers provided by the scam artist.

Unwitting victims will typically receive an unsolicited  telephone call or email that you will be awarded a grant for a small processing fee (for example, $50.00).  If you have not submitted an application for a government grant and someone claims you have been awarded one, it is a scam. The application process for a U.S. Government grant can be very lengthy. If someone comes back and tells you within a day that you have been chosen for a grant, it is a scam.

If you are asked to pay an application fee, it is a scam. Depending on the type of grant you are applying for, it is usually required that you show financial resources to cover expenses that a grant does not cover.

If you choose to pay a person or organization for assistance with a grant, make sure you are paying them to perform a service and not just echo free information from public sources. You can access free grant information at www.grants.gov and www.govbenefits.gov.  If you choose to hire a service, it is strongly suggested that you confer with “scambuster” websites first.

If you feel that you have been a victim of a grant scam or have been contacted by someone claiming to be a Federal Employee wanting to give you free money, contact the Health and Human Services (HHS) Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477, U.S. Secret Service at (671) 472-7395 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (671) 472-7422. 

The Please Help Me Scam

The third scam is one where the emailer claims to be a family member, friend or  acquaintance, and states that he/she is out of the country (for example, London), has lost his/her passport and wallet and the hotel will not release that person until the hotel bill is paid.  The email will ask you to wire money to help the person in distress.  Because the email came from an email address associated with a family member, friend or acquaintance, you may think that that person is actually in trouble.

Contact your family member, friend or acquaintance to confirm his/her whereabouts and status.  Again, if you suspect a scam, contact the U.S. Secret Service at (671) 472-7395 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (671) 472-7422.