LOTTERY SCAM WARNING
Beware of fake lottery scams
“You’ve won the lottery!” It’s something that many people want to hear. But most often, those words come through emails and letters from scammers who are trying to steal your money. The scammers use different company names, the names and logos of legitimate lotteries, and some have even used our association’s logo to give their scam credibility, but they all operate in a similar manner. We assure you we are not involved in these schemes. We have spoken with many people who have proceeded into these scams and ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars, but we have not talked with one person who actually ever received their prize. These are very well devised scams and probably involve a large team of criminals who are getting rich or financing terrorism at the expense of innocent people who can least afford to lose money.
- The scams often target older people and have been known to wipe out victims’ retirement savings.
- The scams take many forms and the scammers use many tricks. In most cases, the criminals e-mail or call to tell intended victims they have won a large prize.
- These scams all have one thing in common: They try to trick you into sending them money or personal information by claiming that you have won a large lottery prize.
- If the person is fooled into thinking he or she has won a prize, the crooks usually try to get the person to transfer money for upfront “taxes” or “fees.” They may also try to get the victim to provide them with a bank account number, which they will then clean out. Another trick is to send the winner a bogus “check” and ask the winner to send money back to cover expenses. It is only after victims have sent their own money that they discover the check they received is counterfeit.
Here are some tips that can prevent you from being scammed:
- If someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played, be suspicious. You can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t buy a ticket.
- If you have caller-ID on your phone, check the area code when someone calls to tell you you’ve won. If it is from a foreign country, that is a red flag. Also, be aware that some con artists use technology that allows them to disguise their area code: although it may look like they’re calling from your state, they could be anywhere in the world.
- Be suspicious if an e-mail contains misspellings or poor grammar, or if the person who called you uses poor English.
- If you are told that you need to keep your “win” confidential, be suspicious.
- No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won. If you have to pay a fee to collect your winnings, you haven’t won.
- Just because a real lottery is mentioned does not necessarily make it a real prize. Someone may be using the lottery’s name without its permission or knowledge.
- Never give out personal information or send money unless you verify the company’s or solicitor’s legitimacy.
- Be suspicious of any offer that asks to have money sent by Western Union, MoneyGram or other transfer methods. It is nearly impossible to track payments and recover funds sent to scammers.
- If they offer to wire the “winnings” directly into your bank account, do not give them your bank account information.
- If you are told that you can “verify” the prize by calling a certain number, that number may be part of the scam. Instead of calling it, you should look up the name of the lottery or organization on your own to find out its real contact information.
- If you think someone on the phone is trying to scam you, hang up immediately. If you engage them in conversation, your name and contact information could end up on a list that’s shared with other scammers.
Following is a list of websites for additional information on these and other scams.
(Keep any documents you may receive regarding your scam, including envelopes, letters and checks, in the event that you are contacted by an investigating agency.)
- Fake Checks: www.fakechecks.org
- Fraud Aid: www.fraudaid.com and www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com
- You can report this fraud to a variety of authorities including your local police, and your state Attorneys General office. Follow the link for a listing for your state: http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php
The following agencies all have online forms to fill out to report this type of fraud:
- Federal Trade Commission: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0086-international-lottery-scams
- US Postal Service Inspections Office: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/radDocs/victim.htm
- Canadian Anti-Fraud organization: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
- International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network: http://www.icpen.org
- Western Union: http://www.westernunion.com/sites/us/consumer-protection/ConsumerProtection.page
We have come to realize that these schemes have been taking a low priority for these agencies since it is so difficult for them to catch and prosecute the individuals. They often work through fictitious addresses and use disposable cell phones that are difficult to trace. However, the more people that file complaints the more likely these organizations will take action. Right now, the best defense is to educate as many people as possible to let them know about these scams and how they work – and not to get involved.