Another mail scam came across my desk earlier this week, and it is a sad reminder that there are people out there who don’t care about other people and just want to make a buck.

This particular scam came with a cheque for nearly $2,000 and a letter explaining that the recipient should take $1,650 of it to pay a “processing fee” as the first step to claim his $50,000 prize from the “World International Consumers” sweepstakes.

He is instructed to cash the cheque and send the MoneyGram, then contact this phoney “claim agents” for “further directives.”

Atop the letter is a very cheesy-looking letterhead that could have been constructed by anyone with rudimentary knowledge of a basic word processing program that I can only assume the scammers used in an attempt to legitimize the letter. To further that weak attempt, the scammers also name-dropped a dozen or so huge corporations as “sponsors” of the program: Telus, Koodo, FIFA, Thomas Cook, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Royal Bank of Canada, HSBC, Sears, Staples, Home Depot, Lowes, Shoppers Drug Mart, Best Buy, the Bay, Barclays, Bank of Montreal, First Alternative, Enterprise, Cisco and Microsoft.

I suppose the hope is that the recipient will look at the letter and uncritically think, “OK, all these big corporations have granted permission for their names to be used in this letter so it must be real!” and then get so excited they rush to the bank, deposit the cheque, turn around and send most of it back, then call their claim agents for “further directives” and be heartily surprised and disappointed when their calls are never connected or go unreturned, and years later, they still haven’t received their promised $50,000 prize.

The cherry on top of this scam sundae comes right at the end of the letter: “We recommend you keep this letter safe and personal at all times to protect your winning and personal information, and to avoid someone else calling your agents to claim your prize.”

It’s basically telling the recipient not to tell anyone about their huge prize, lest some pesky loudmouth point out it has all the makings of a mail scam.

Reading this letter really irked me because it is so unscrupulous and treats the recipient as a complete moron. That’s not to lay blame on victims of scams — these schemes only exist because people fall for them.

But this letter goes so far as to try to manipulate the reader to believe that their family and friends would try to steal their prize money instead of celebrating their big win.

It’s a simple and not very subtle tactic to get complicity that just really annoyed me.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to track where these scams originate, and the best thing people can do if they get letters like this is to report them to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-654-9426 or throw them away.

A simple Google search of the words “National lottery letter” turned up dozens of links to news stories and anti-fraud sites explaining how the scam works and even photos of letters identical to the one sent to a Merritt address.

These letters are not crafted by evil computers or terrible corporations, they’re created by people who want to make a buck off someone else. Maybe moral culpability isn’t at play at all for these scammers, or maybe they use the rationalization that they didn’t specifically target anyone, just blanketed hundreds, maybe thousands of addresses with the letter and waited for something to come back. Maybe it is nothing personal to them, just business.

I doubt their victims would agree.

If you receive a cheque in the mail for work you didn’t do or a congratulatory letter stating you won a contest you didn’t enter or you’re asked to send money somewhere to claim a bigger prize, listen to your internal B.S. detector. As nice as it might sound, money for nothing is extremely, incredibly unlikely.