The Kansas Attorney General’s office recently warned Kansans to watch out for foreign lottery scams such as the one that cost a local resident $80,000, and detectives at the Riley County Police department say it’s an issue they see crop up occasionally here.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, along with officials from the Kansas Lottery, said his office has received an increasing number of complaints about foreign lottery scams. The most common problem involves the scammers contacting a consumer, saying he or she has won a large sum of money in a lottery in a foreign country, and wanting the winner to send a small amount of money to pay the taxes and process the prize.
He said the scammer may ask the consumer for a bank account number to deposit the funds, but in reality they are obtaining this information in order to make unauthorized withdrawals.
“The Kansas Lottery is the only legally operating lottery in the State of Kansas,” Kansas Lottery executive director Dennis Wilson said. He added that one of the easiest ways to detect a scam is knowing that lottery officials will not ask people for money up front to collect a prize and will not ask for banking information over the phone.
RCPD Det. Steve Gregoire said he sees a lot of foreign lottery scams. Generally in these cases, he said the victim will receive a letter with foreign stamps, perhaps from Canada, and inside will be a check and a letter from someone claiming to be a foreign lottery company.
Gregoire said the check, however, is usually signed by a business in the U.S., commonly an insurance company or bank.
Inside the letter are instructions to cash the check and give the fake lottery company a call, upon which the victim will be given instructions to wire the majority of the money back to the company, though the victim is told they can keep a small portion.
Gregoire said some people will take the check to a bank to test its authenticity or will recognize the scam and take it to the police, who give the checks to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Authorities last week said an 84-year-old Manhattan woman had sent $80,000 from July to December to a fake lottery company calling itself Global International Sweepstakes and Lottery Company. In November, an Ogden woman sent $3,250 to a company telling her that she had won $50,000. Both victims were told they needed to send money in order to receive their prize money.
Gregoire said if a so-called lottery company demands an advance fee, that is a huge red flag. He also cited the ago-old adage: “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
It’s not only lottery scams that are problems. In November, police also warned about a phone scam involving callers who demand financial information and claim to be from debt collection agencies or law firms. They said the calls came from a New York number, 347-380-8980, that was suspected to be truncated from overseas and that the callers might have some information such as names or Social Security numbers of the people they target. Gregoire said they were very aggressive and would most likely target and threaten the elderly and their families.
Gregoire said a lot of phone scams are targeted at the elderly, speculating that they might be less suspicious, or perhaps in need of the money or simply lonely.
He suggested that if anyone receives the phone calls or letters, they should hang up or throw the letter away.
Gregoire said he deals with money scam cases, which are filed as thefts, a couple of times a month, but suggested the issue might be underreported due to embarrassment. He said there are many different types of scams and that some people seem to be willing participants while others are duped completely. The Attorney General’s office suggests that any consumer who has been a victim of a foreign lottery or sweepstakes scam should contact the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-432-2310 or www.ksag.org.