By examining Christina's documents closely, Sid finds several red flags—starting with the grammar of the letter. "This is allegedly an Australian lottery, yet read it—this [is] scammer grammar. Australians know the English language better than this. There are misspellings. There's improper grammar use," Sid says.
He says the fact that the scammers asked Christina—who lives in Alabama—to mail her supposed tax money to New York is another hint that something is wrong. "When you pay your taxes, you're paying it to the regional office, probably in Atlanta," Sid says.
Even the phone number that Christina called to verify the check's authenticity—which she found on the check itself—is part of the scam, according to Sid. "These scams operate on a sense of urgency. It's like, 'You won $1 million. How come you haven't claimed your prize yet? Time's running out! Here is the number to call.' It's a boiler room. She dials a toll-free number. It could be set up anywhere," Sid says.
Christina's bank cashed the checks so quickly, Sid says, because federal mandates require that banks make the funds available within one to five days. But that does not necessarily mean that the bank had actually gotten any money. "You have to hear that the funds have been collected. That will take two weeks. That means the ... bank has gotten those funds from the check issuer," Sid says.