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Hybrid scam letter appears in San Antonio

Man receives phony check for nearly $4,000

SAN ANTONIO – When Joe Sauceda opened up an envelope he received in the mail, he saw a check bearing his name worth nearly $4,000.

“My daughter asked, 'What did you do to get that?!' and I said, ‘I don't know,’” Sauceda said. “But man, three grand would go good right now.”

Sauceda called KSAT 12 and brought the letter and check to the KSAT studios where we showed it to FBI special agent Michelle Lee.

“This is essentially the cashier's check or fabricated check scam which is kind of mixed in with the secret shopper scam,” Lee said. “I am sometimes impressed by the creativity that these criminals and criminal organizations are using.”

The envelope contained a letter informing Sauceda that he had been selected to lead a secret store evaluation. He was to cash the check and purchase $3,000 in gift cards, then call the number on the letter and give them the card numbers before mailing the cards and an evaluation sheet back to an undisclosed address.

The extra amount of $700 was to serve as payment to Sauceda.

“Anytime you get a check for a large amount, unsolicited from someone, the red flag should go up, and you should suspect it's not an authentic check,” Lee said.

“If I have to do all that other stuff and would have cashed it in my bank, I would have been overdrawn that much and would have had all kinds of penalties,” said Sauceda, who immediately felt the letter was too good to be true.

That’s the best advice Lee gives consumers when they receive similar fraud mailings, which are a multibillion dollar industry.

“Here in the United States, it was estimated at about $500 billion,” Lee said. “In Texas alone, it was estimated at $30 billion in losses for fraud.”

“Trying to take people, the little money they have,” added Sauceda. “It's actually common sense but I don't know.”

Here are several links regarding common fraud schemes:

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes

https://www.ic3.gov/crimeschemes.aspx

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud