The letter sent to my husband from Mutualtrust Financial Inc. appeared quite convincing. It stated that he had won $20, 000.00 and a 2 day 2 night round trip cruise to the Bahamas aboard Imperial Majesty Cruise line's flagship, the My Regal Empress.
Included with the letter was a Citibank check for $2970.50. The check appears to be authentic. The instructions in the letter said that the check was to be deposited into my account, allowed to clear, and the money sent back to them to pay the taxes and fees for my prize, which would finalize my claim for my prize. The end of the letter warned me that all prizes would need to be claimed by September 10, 2007 (approximately 2 weeks after my receipt of this letter).
The first company that I called was Citibank, to ask if they were truly sponsors of this sweepstakes. The advice that I got from them was horrible! They said that they sponsor many sweepstakes for their customers, that it most likely was authentic, and that I should go ahead and deposit it!
The next call that I made was to my bank. I am very familiar with the ladies at our bank. They said that a sweepstakes will never, EVER send a winner a check that needs to be used to send money back to them. The check may clear my bank, but it could take 3-4 weeks for us to find out that it did not clear on their end, at which time the funds would be taken back out of my account. In the meantime, I would have already needed to send the funds back to Mutualtrust Financial in order to not forfeit my prize.
The result of this would be that they get my $2970.50, and we get to be in debt for it! The only place that I have found the names Mutualtrust Financial Inc. or North America Vacationers Sweepstakes/Lottery Program on the web is on sites warning people of this fraud, which tells me that I did the right thing in turning my letter and check in to my bank's security advisor.
Before you deposit any questionable check, ask your bank what to do! They have no reason to not want you to have the money, but they have every reason to protect their own customers and their accounts.