The companies are working closely with local and national law enforcement to report and investigate this latest wave of activity.
The companies - which first warned its employees, customers, and other consumers about the appearance of fraudulent sweepstakes scams in late March - have now been alerted to a third wave of fraudulent activity. This round has taken a new twist from the previous activity. Playing on the need of some unsuspecting consumers for unexpected cash and part-time "employment opportunities," criminals have launched yet another round of fraudulent activity using the name "Bendix Spicer Research Marketing."
The parties responsible for the latest scam distributed award letters and fake checks to consumers through the U.S. Mail, claiming that, based on their response to a prior survey, they were selected to participate in a paid consumer research program as "mystery shoppers."
The scam entices consumers with the promise of significant part-time income on a temporary and then permanent basis. Recipients are asked to evaluate well-known retailers such as Macy's, JCPenney, or Target as a first wave of activity, and then evaluate the effectiveness of financial payment systems by completing an assignment at designated providers. The letter, accompanied by fake mystery shopper documentation, requires the recipient to take action by a specified date, supplies phony reference numbers relating to the request, and urges recipients to cash an enclosed check and call a non-Bendix number to find out how to confirm receipt of the check.
"We continue to question how Bendix and BSFB became the target of this activity," said Anthony LaPlaca, Bendix vice president and general counsel. "Fake check schemes are devious ploys designed to steal consumers' money. As the frequency of this illegal behavior increases, our concern over the potential for honest citizens to be swindled grows, as well. Working in partnership with our financial service providers and the proper authorities, it is our hope that this harmful activity can be brought to a halt."
Bendix is working closely with the appropriate federal, state, and local legal authorities in the ongoing investigation of this matter. The company continues to respond to calls to its facilities throughout North America from recipients of the letters. The number of consumers who have received the letters is unknown, but Bendix confirms that individuals from across the United States have reported receiving the fraudulent sweepstakes mailing. Recipients are not limited to those in the commercial vehicle industry in which the companies do business.
The latest fraudulent checks include both the Bendix and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake logos and display the "Mellon Bank" name. The checks accompany letters printed on fake letterhead for "Bendix Spicer Research Marketing," a company that does not exist. An example of the new round of the fraudulent sweepstakes award letter - along with copies of the initial scam materials - is posted on the Bendix Web site at www.bendix.com.
Bendix advises recipients of the fraudulent mailing to follow these guidelines:
· Do not call the numbers provided in the letter.
· Do not attempt to cash the fraudulent check.
· Alert your local authorities that you have received the fraudulent mailing.
· If available, send copies of the fraudulent documents to Bendix for use in the investigation. Documents can be sent to the companies' headquarters, c/o the Bendix Legal Department, at Bendix Commercial Vehicles Systems LLC, 901 Cleveland St., Elyria, OH 44035.
The Mail Fraud Statute of 1872 made it a federal crime to use the U.S. Mail to further a scheme to defraud. According to U.S. Postal Service inspectors, most victims of prize or sweepstakes fraud never report it to the authorities. Even so, inspectors report that nearly 2,000 suspects are arrested each year for mail fraud.
Consumer protection and law enforcement agencies report that there are many variations of the fake check scam. Often, these scams - like the fraudulent activity targeting Bendix - involve counterfeit cashier's checks. The victim receives a "partial payment" check that looks like a legitimate cashier's check, along with a letter that informs the recipient that he or she has won a prize or has been selected for a designated activity. The fraudulent letter provides instructions for claiming the funds. The bank's real contact phone numbers have been replaced with a number that, when dialed, is answered by one of the scammers. The check is not legitimate and the recipients haven't actually won anything. They are simply the target of con artists.
"If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is," LaPlaca said. "Close scrutiny and continued caution against this type of damaging activity can help protect innocent citizens from becoming victims of fraud. It is unfortunate that our companies' identities are being used in this manner, and we hope consumers will question and research this scam before falling victim to it."