June 27, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Montana State Auditor John Morrison issued a warning today about a fraudulent unclaimed prize award scam targeting Montanans. The warning comes after the State Auditor’s Office received several consumer inquiries about letters that were sent to Montanans from the so-called UM Investment Trust. These letters are being sent to individuals alleging they are winners of a “telephone & light bills draw.”
      "Helping Montanans protect their hard-earned savings is a job I take seriously," said Morrison. “We know that the best kind of law enforcement is to prevent the crime in the first place which is why we are constantly working to get the word out about the latest scams targeting the state. Helping Montanans steer clear of con artists is one of the most effective ways of helping them to protect their hard-earned cash.”
      Montanans are receiving letters from an individual claiming to be a manager for UM Investment Trust (a non-existent company), located in New York, New York, which includes a check in the amount of $3,725 drawn on a bogus Bank of America account. The letter instructs recipients to call a Canadian phone number in order to receive assistance in obtaining their $50,000 cash prize. The Department has investigated this matter and discovered it is a scam. The perpetrator hopes individuals will deposit the check into their personal bank account, as instructed, and then send a cashier’s check or a money order to the scam artist. Montana citizens who participate in this scam will not only not win any money, they will lose the money they send because the check they deposit is worthless.
      The Department contacted the Bank of America to determine if the check enclosed with the letter was legitimate. Bank of America informed the Department that the account number listed on the check did not exist. Further, Bank of America does not have any account for the entity UM Investment Trust.
      The recent globalization of the world financial markets has fueled not only a high demand for U.S. stocks, but also an equally high level of international fraud. The Montana Securities Department suggests investigation of any investment opportunity before you invest.
      “The bottom line is that people should never send money in response to claims that they have won a prize, especially if they never entered the competition in the first place,” said Morrison. “These solicitations are always a scam. If consumers have really won a prize, they shouldn’t be asked to pay money to collect it. Montanans should not part with any money or give their bank or card details in order to receive a prize. The golden rule applies – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!”
      Should you have any questions about the legitimacy of an investment opportunity offered to or sold from Montana, or should you be interested in contacting the Department, please visit our website at www.sao.state.mt.us. Further contact information for the Department is available on this website.