The sad truth is, foreign lottery scams are still around because they are successful for the scammers. Millions of Americans are targeted every year.
The first reaction from someone receiving a letter about a large award is often a wave of relief, especially if they are facing financial problems.
For an elderly couple who love their home and are having troubles with their finances, the arrival of a letter saying they’d on $4.5 million in a Spanish lottery seemed like an answer to their prayers. The story, reported by woodtv.com, “88-year-old nearly scammed by fake lottery, warns others,” starts out like so many similar scenarios. Luckily for this couple, a trusted estate planning law firm helped them steer clear.
“It was stamped by the government, approved by the government,” Betty said. “I just figured, all these stamps, it’s got to be real.”
The letter from Portugal arrived weeks after she’d mailed a different ball-related game of chance, a Pick Quick card that had come in a Publishers Clearing House mailing. She thought the letter was notification that her Pick Quick card was a winner.
But this was different. The letter from “The Mega Lottery Picker 2017” explained that she’d have to give 5% of her winnings to a “promotions company” and they offered to wire the money to her bank account. How convenient, Betty thought.
Fortunately, before calling the lottery company with her banking information, she first called an attorney who she was already scheduled to meet the next day to talk about the couple’s finances. Betty thought there was no need to meet because she was now rich. But the paralegal she spoke with at the law firm was suspicious and asked Betty not to call the “lottery.”
After investigating, the law firm saw that it was a scam, much to Betty’s disbelief.
This scam isn’t uncommon. For example, the federal government is now prosecuting several Jamaicans in a telemarketing lottery scheme that allegedly bilked around 100 Americans out of more than $5.7 million. Many of the victims were elderly. There’s no evidence the letter Betty received is linked to the Jamaican scam.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to recognize a scam and avoid being scammed.
- There’s a fee to pay;
- You must wire the company money;
- You’re required to deposit a check sent to you;
- They say they’re from the government;
- It’s a bulk mail notice;
- They call you, even though your number is on the Do Not Call Registry;
- You get a text message about a prize; and
- A review online shows complaints.
Never provide bank account information to anyone you don’t know, especially if they are dangling a large cash award in front of you. To learn more ways to protect yourself from scammers, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov.
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