Seniors Are Targets in Fake Lottery Scams

A 78-year-old Rhode Island man received a letter in the mail indicating he had won more than $800,000 in Spain's Mega Millones Loteria De La Primitiva lottery program. During the next two weeks the man withdrew money from his bank account, took out cash advances on his credit card, borrowed funds from family and lost over $40,000 to the lottery scam. And it's highly unlikely the money will ever be recovered.The con used to swindle the man out of his money is a variation on a common scheme. Victims, typically senior citizens receive letters or e-mails from people saying they are a registered agent of the lottery and send out claim forms to fill out including the beneficiaries name, address, social security information and banking details. There may even be a line for next of kin.

The con artists then gave the victim the name and Web site of a bank. The banks are typically located in Spain, Holland or Switzerland but the websies are almost always fake. The victims are almost always given a phone number as well to contact officials about their supposed "prize." If anyone calls the telephone number they are always prompted to give over personal information. Almost unbelievably the victims mostly give it. Date of birth, social security numbers, bank details, pin numbers and more are given trustingly, never even believing for one minute they are being taken.

Victims may also receive a letter from a bank saying the financial institution had the lottery winnings, but the victim had not met the financial obligations for the release of the funds.

The requests for cash will continue until most of the victims have wire transferred everything they have and have to obtain personal loans from family or friends or take out cash advances on credit cards.

Police have limited subpoena power outside of the United States; telephone numbers used in the scams are based in foreign countries and almost impossible to trace; and the wire transfers completely anonymous as anyone can enter an overseas wire service office with fake i.d. to pick up cash.

Consumers should suspect a scam if:

– If you receive a letter regarding a lottery and it is not certified it is almost undoubtedly junk mail. Throw it out.

– Someone asks for any kind of remuneration as a condition of receiving cash.

– Letters contain many misspellings and grammatical errors.

– A letterhead features a fake or stolen trademarked logo at the top of its masthead.

– They are asked to wire money to a bank. There is never a need to wire cash to a legitimate bank or lottery.

– If you are informed you have won a lottery or contest you never entered.

– Telephone numbers that appear to have U.S. area codes can be connected to overseas accounts.

If you ever have any doubt about the legitimacy of a lottery or company consumers should also check out to see if there are any registered complaints or the Better Business Bureau.

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