Federal authorities are investigating a slew of fake checks received by individuals across the country that purport to originate from a local television station in Michigan.
In July, Lansing NBC affiliate WILX-TV (Channel 10) said it began receiving reports from people throughout the United States that claimed they were receiving checks in the mail with the station’s call letters and postal addresses in the issuer fields.
An Indiana resident said someone began texting him earlier in the month with a promise to give him $3,000 if he cashed a check, mailed a portion of it back and agreed to place advertisements on his car for the retail chain Big Lots.
The resident said he thought the deal was pretty good and assumed Big Lots was paying the station to handle marketing and advertising, but the station’s general manager Debbie Pettersmark said that wasn’t the case.
“There is no way in the world a television station is ever going to send a check to an individual asking them to cash it and pay back a part of the check,” she said in a story published late July.
Since then, WILX and its parent company Gray Television say they’ve heard from other individuals who have received similar checks. Now the FBI is involved, and they say it’s possible the check-cashing scam is part of a larger money mule scheme that, for some reason, is co-opting the station’s branding.
A special agent who spoke with WILX said money mules scam victims in order to launder ill-gotten gains from other unscrupulous criminal activity.
“They’re making an attempt to run it by our monetary programs with a view to make it look official,” FBI agent Ruben Coleman told the station.
The station is asking anyone who receives a suspicious check with their branding to file a complaint with local authorities, then call station management at (517) 393-0110.