Wallowa County residents are receiving authentic-looking but fake letters naming the recipients as winners of large cash prizes with attached checks drawn on legitimate banks.
It's a scam, says Sheriff Fred Steen.
Although the checks name real banks, they will bounce and those cashing them will be responsible for the overdraft, Steen said.
An Enterprise man was named winner of the "Mega Million Sweepstakes" and was advised to cash the enclosed check for $4,450, then send $3,400 by Western Union to a location in London to pay the tax on the winnings.
Then, the letter promised, the resident would receive the balance of $120,550.
An Enterprise woman reported a similar letter telling her to cash the enclosed $3,980 check and pay $2,980 in taxes to receive the rest of her $125,000 winnings.
While the checks look real, a close inspection of them and the letters reveals faulty English, misspellings and odd statements, such as the description of the corporation sending one letter as "brokerage services, underwriting and restructuring, financial advisers and assistance, mortgage bailout, refinncing and agent of Cola Cola Company."
Steen recommended that anyone receiving one of these letters open it and "educate yourself about what it is," then discard it.
"These things go in cycles," Steen said. "We've had them before and we'll have them again."
He said the timing, during the Christmas shopping season, is "suspect."
Not long ago, a sheriff's employee received a similar scam letter at the sheriff's office, he said.