I am a long time mortgage professional, specializing in comprehensive financial analysis, helping borrowers get the very best home loans at the best terms for their specific situations and goals.
Yesterday a client called and asked to come see me this morning. After discussing his file here he said he wanted to ask about something unrelated to his loan. He then showed me a check from E & W Enterprises, drawn on US Bank. The check has the usual watermarks and graduated color background. The check was signed by Jennifer Marlo and the letter accompanying the check was signed by Marilyn Ritchie.
The letter states that recipient has been approved for a grant in the amount of $10, 000. The commission to Ms. Ritchie for securing the grant is represented to be 4%, i.e., $400. Ms. Ritchie goes on to tell the recipient to deposit this preliminary check in the amount of $944.55 into his bank account. Then, pay the $400 commission via a commercially available Greendot card to Merchant ID#8549. She states, once that's done the balance of $9, 055.45, which is "waiting in our office" will be sent via overnight air express delivery. Until then the balance of $544.55 is his to spend however he likes, she wrote.
I'm a strong believer in there being no free lunch and if it sounds too good to be true then it almost certainly is. I trust people but even after reading the fine print, always find ways to do independent research to validate information BEFORE signing anything. I try to educate my borrowers to do the same.
After reading through the letter I warned my client that even if it were an authentic check, running it through his bank would give the sender his bank name, account number, and routing information. That alone was a great concern. So, the first thing to do would be to call US Bank and determine whether the check was authentic with sufficient funds in the account to pay it. If so, perhaps there would be an argument for presenting it directly to US Bank for cash.
Well, there are no US Bank retail branches in Tulsa so we called the closest one listed, in Joplin. The manager there said they're familiar with this scam but that the checks she's known of have been written on a Bank of America account.
I gave her the routing number 092005411, and learned it belongs to First Interstate Bank in Helena Montana, not US Bank at all.
There have been charlatans, criminals, con artists and crooks probably for as long as there have been humans, but this scam is especially offensive, with our country in a tenuous but apparent growing economic recovery, so many people out of work and at holiday time too.
The US Bank branch manager agreed to accept a copy via fax and put in motion all the legal action available to the bank. Since the US Postal Service is involved we're notifying the US Postal Inspector General, the US Attorney's office, Minnesota, California, and Oklahoma's Attorney Generals, the Better Business Bureau, and FBI.
After all of that I wanted to take a minute to post here. I hope it helps prevent other victims as well as catching and stopping these villains.
Sincere & Warm Regards,
Senior Mortgage Banker