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An American woman is being sued for fraud by her bank after falling victim to an online scam. Prize money from an Internet contest turned out to have been a bad cheque, and the Cooperative Credit Union wants its money back.

Jaclyn Swenson, 26, from Racine, Wisconsin thought she had won $13,000 in the first phase of an Internet-based contest.

Swenson says she exchanged about 75 e-mails with contest officials, who originally wanted her bank account details and social security number. Apparently aware that this could be a phishing scam, she refused to give the organisers the information. Eventually, she says, they agreed to send her the prize money.

The next phase of the contest required her to pay the money into her account, and then transfer it to another account out of the state. This would qualify her for a 'Grand Prize' of $2.8m, according to the contest organisers.

According to reports in her local newspaper, she was concerned that the contest was a fake and, once the money arrived, took the precaution of asking local banks, the Better Business Bureau and the police to verify that the cheque was real. She says she was told it was genuine, as it was a certified cashiers' cheque.

She paid it into her account, waited five working days for it to clear, and instead of transferring it out of the state, went on a weekend shopping spree. She paid back loans, bought a used car, an Xbox and took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's. In total she spent $9,493.28 of the $13,000.

However, the following Monday, the Federal Reserve flagged the cheque as bogus, and the Credit Union asked her to pay the money back. At this point she ran, terrified of arrest, from the bank lobby and has not been back.

Swenson doesn't have the money and is now in hiding. She is filling her time playing in online contests. ®

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