Bryan Cohen Mar. 15, 2013, 6:15pm

LINCOLN, Neb. (Legal Newsline) - Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has joined First State Bank Nebraska in issuing a consumer alert regarding letters claiming to be from Publishers Clearinghouse International Lotto Division with fraudulent cashier's checks.

The checks are drawn on fake accounts from First State Bank Nebraska. Hundreds of letters sent nationwide included the checks. More than 40 states reported similar letters and fake checks with larger volumes in Arizona, Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas and California.

Victims of the scam receive a letter stamped with the phrase "GOVT APPROVAL." Inside the envelope is a cashier's check drawn from First State Bank Nebraska. Recipients are told they won the Publishers Clearinghouse grand prize and the letter provides winning numbers, claim agent name and contact information. The letter tells the recipient to contact the claim agent to arrange for payment of taxes, processing fees and insurance. The correspondence also suggests the claim agent will need the recipient's bank account information for the winnings to be deposited. The letters instruct recipients to keep transactions confidential.

The deposited checks from the letters are counterfeit and banks return them for non-payment, a process that can take several days.

"Scammers will try anything to increase the credibility of their scam," Bruning said. "Schemes using local banking institutions as a front may leave consumers less skeptical. Regardless of where the letter is posted, or the banking information included, don't trust cashier's checks sent from people you don't know. If you receive a check in the mail, use a trusted number to call the banking institution to verify its validity."

In the past few weeks, representatives of FSB Nebraska returned more than 180 fraudulent checks determined to be counterfeit after being deposited in consumer accounts at other institutions. The bank received approximately 200 phone calls from people who received checks.

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