Fraud Awareness

Lotteries

 

 

Overview

Have you recently received an e-mail, letter, or a call from someone claiming that you have won a lottery that you haven't played before? It is most likely a form of an advance fee scam, which is a scam that requires people to pay money up front to receive a prize. Scam artists have no intention of awarding you a prize, but instead, they seek to steal your money or personal information.

Lottery scams come in many forms but generally have one thing in common: they state that people have won the lottery and request money to claim winnings or to pay fees, taxes, or currency exchanges. They may also be seeking personal information to use for other fraudulent purposes. How it usually works is that a lottery check is mailed, along with a letter explaining that to claim the remaining winnings, a wire of a certain sum of money should immediately be sent to the lottery sponsor. The reason for the urgency in sending back a portion of the money is that the check will be returned, either for insufficient funds or for fraud.

Many of these checks are foreign. International items normally take longer to clear than domestic items because they're sent through a collections process, and thus it may take up to eight weeks before the bank is paid by the account holder of the check. If people spend or use the funds from the lottery check, and the check comes back as fraudulent, the check will be reversed from the person's banking account, leaving him responsible to make good on the value of the check. By law, accountholders are legally responsible and fully liable for any and all checks, wires, or money orders deposited into their bank account.

Often, lottery scams use Websites. The fraudsters will send official looking documents to you and ask you to confirm their validity by going to a Website created by the fraudster. The Websites ask that you enter personal information to claim a prize or for other reasons. This information is then later used to defraud you. Today's technologies can produce official-looking documents with ease and anyone can establish a Website over the Internet, so use caution when Websites request such information.

Who to Contact

If you have been a victim of this or any other type of advance fee scam, you may want to contact the authorities. If you are in the U.S., you should contact your local FBI field office or State Attorney General's office.

You can also file a complaint with the Internet Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

If you are a U. S. resident and receive information on debt elimination in the mail, either foreign or domestic, this falls under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Postal Service. You should:

  • Place the information back in the envelope.
  • On the back of the envelope (outer envelope if double) print the name of the scam, FOREIGN LOTTERY, ATTN: U. S. POSTAL INSPECTOR.
  • Drop the envelope off at any Post Office, back side up, so postal employees can see what you are handing them.
  • You may wish to file a mail fraud report to alert the U. S. Postal Service to go with the above.

The Federal Trade Commission works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices. You can also contact them at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit www.ftc.gov.

In addition, the U. S. Secret Service investigates fraud cases and can be reached by contacting your local field office.

Tips for Preventing

  • Never provide your credit card, social security, driver's license, passport or bank account numbers over the phone, Internet or mail to anyone promising lottery cash prizes or memberships.
  • It is a violation of Federal law to play a foreign lottery via mail or phone.
  • If the lottery winnings appear too good to be true, they probably are.
  • Be cautious when dealing with people outside of your own country.
  • Never respond to an e-mail, letter or phone call from someone who offers you a guarantee of winning a prize. There are no secret ways to beat a lottery; all entries have the same chance of winning.
  • No legitimate lottery will request a portion of the funds back for such things as fees, taxes or currency exchanges to claim lottery winnings.
  • If you buy into this scheme, expect many more fraudulent lottery or investment "opportunities." Your name will be placed on "sucker lists" that fraudsters buy and sell.
  • Legitimate lotteries shouldn't want to operate in a secretive environment.
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