Is This E-mail (or offer) a Scam?
Yes, Scammers 'send' checks promising large amounts of money, then the check bounces or your bank may treat this 'check' as a loan. How do scammers get your name and address? The Internet! If you paid taxes, registered anything, filled in a contest form, bought or sold property, or even got a fishing license, your information is available online. Bottom line: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Don't cash checks from people/companies that you don't know and haven't done business with before. Don't cash "lottery prizes" for lotteries you didn't enter or never heard of before. Reject any emails promising large cash transfers (for a small user or finder's fee). Don't share personal information with people who initiated contact with you promising a) jobs, b) cash from unknown dead relatives, c) back taxes, or d) dormant bank accounts overseas. All these scams are active and waiting to take your money. Avoid sending chain e-mail that shows user's addresses: scammers use these also.
Admitting you have been victimized is the first step
Fraudsters count three things: 1) you don't find out that you've been had, 2) you find out too late to do anything, or 3) you find out but are too embarrassed or busy to file a police report and seek out a prosecutor. Many fraudsters fly under the radar by limiting the amount they steal from any one source and hope that by moving on quickly to new targets of opportunity, they can evade prosecution indefinitely. If you have been a victim of fraud, even if it was a family member or 'friend' you need to protect yourself and your credit rating. Report the matter to the bank or financial institution. File a police report if necessary and cooperate with investigators. Act quickly to get legal advice: time counts if you want to have a chance of recovery. The sooner you can get over the hurt/betrayal you feel, the sooner you can regain control of your life and business affairs. Do not allow the fraudster to have open access - and don't accept "it was a honest mistake" from known liars.
Fraud prevention tips
Identity theft can be made more difficult if you actively monitor all your credit/bank accounts (at least monthly). If the bank offers fraud alerts or calls you when they notice unusual spending patterns/amounts, sign up for that service. Don't carry your Social Security Number ever - and don't give it out on non-government forms. Restrict giving out information on a "need to know" basis - if they don't need it, then don't give it out. Update your computer anti-virus/firewall protections and don't open email from unknown senders. Shred/burn all personal forms that may end up in the trash - fraudsters will "dumpster dive" to retrieve statements, bills, receipts that have your info. Write "Ask for ID" on the back of Credit Cards and insist on showing a photo ID to sales clerks when you use credit cards. You can do all these things and STILL be a victim of fraud - but chance favors the prepared so hopefully you will make yourself a "hard target" and be less attractive to fraudsters.