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DOJ: Beware of Lottery Fraud

Lottery fraud seems to be getting around these days. Earlier today the Department of Justice shared a blog post to warn the public of these scams.

The scam is simple. Perpetrators inform target victims via telephone or e-mail they’ve won a contest. But in order to obtain the prize, the recipient must first pay taxes and other fees. In the more severe cases, victims have lost their life savings by seeking to obtain a prize that doesn’t actually exist.

Last August, for example, I wrote about a story of two individuals who sent several hundred thousand dollars overseas in order to redeem their alleged prize.

The Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch provides some common signs of lottery fraud:

  • You should not have to pay fees or taxes in advance to receive lottery or sweepstakes winnings. Beware of checks or wire transfers sent to you by the lottery. The fraudsters will tell you to cash these payments and forward the money, but after you have sent this money, the payment you originally received will bounce.
  • Lottery fraudsters use technology to mask their telephone number. Your caller-ID may identify a call as coming from the United States that is actually coming from a foreign country.
  • Lottery fraudsters impersonate officials from federal agencies in order to convince victims that the scam is legitimate. The United States government does not participate in the distribution of prize money from lotteries and sweepstakes.
  • You should never give your Social Security number, bank account number or any other personal identifying information to these callers. Fraudsters promise to use this information to pay the “fees” for your prize, or they offer to pay off your debts. In reality, they use this information to steal your identity and your money.
  • Lottery fraudsters are particularly successful with victims who live alone or suffer cognitive impairment. Fraudsters befriend victims to create trust and to convince victims to hide the payments from family members.
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