PALATKA, Fla. -

Several Palatka residents have reported receiving mailings identifying them as winning a monetary award or lottery, and now officials are warning others about the check scams.

The envelopes include a letter and check that appear valid to the recipient and their bank. The checks are counterfeit, and if deposited in a bank, the funds will be subtracted from the account holder's balance after the check is returned.

Victims could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on how far the scam has proceeded.

The letters explain victims have been awarded large sums of money with the enclosed check being a "down
payment" to cover the cost of taxes, freight or other expenses associated with "winning." Victims are usually given a contact name and phone number to call prior to depositing the check. The purpose of call is to allow criminals the opportunity to coach the victims on what information to provide the bank.

Some of the "advice" given to victims is not to tell the bank or family members about their "winnings" until after they receive the full payment. The true purpose of the call is to help ensure no one will stop the victim from depositing the check and sending money to the criminals via money orders or a money transfer service such as Western Union.

Local banks, check cashing services and businesses that provide financial services to the community are aware of these scams and will normally try to assist the person before they are victimized.

If you receive an unsolicited check or other offer appearing "too good to be true," do not respond until you verify the information is valid.

These scams have been going on for many years with new versions introduced every few months. The reality is criminals run these scams from locations all over the world using phone and mail services that hide their true identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to investigate.

Contact the Palatka Police Department if you have been victimized by a scam and experience a loss of
money or property.