Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Watchdog: Lottery Scam
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- Imagine opening up your mail to find you've hit it big -- really big. A lottery has selected you as the winner.
All you have to do is pay a one time fee to receive the cash, but do you?
The state Department of Consumer Affairs says it's one of the latest scams crossing the globe, and it's zeroed in on one Midlands couple.
Maureen Cleveland and Richard Garis have lived in Lexington for just a year, but the last twelve months have been marred to say the least.
It all started with a notice in the mail. Richard had won a lottery big time, and the words were enticing.
"We have this large amount of money for you. All you have to do is go down to Western Union and give them a certain amount of money to be wired to us, and when we receive it someone will come to your door with several thousand dollars."
The mailings and phone calls continued to arrive to the tune of several letters or calls a day. Different lotteries with different winnings, anywhere from $25,000 in cash prizes to $295,000 in winnings, and the fees to claim the prizes varied as well -- as much as $3500 in "taxes" to receive the cash, and just when Richard had reached his boiling point, Maureen learned she was a "lucky winner" as well.
"And I picked up the phone when i started overhearing his conversation, and that's when i just got this feeling that said 'Uh uh, this isn't real.' And I wrote on the bottom of the paper, we used a notebook that was there, and I said to him, 'Do not give an account number. Do not give any information. I think this is fake.'"
These letters arrived from all over the globe: Canada, the U.K., Jamaica, Kansas, New York, and the list goes on, but State Department of Consumer Affairs spokesperson Carri Lybarker says they all shared one thing in common: They were all scams.
"It's difficult to say where it's coming from whether it's from certain subscription lists or it's just some unscrupulous employee who has access to this information and they want to sell it. So the number one thing is to be aware that scam artists are out there, and they're going to contact you, and we usually tell people to tell the person, 'I know this is a scam. I'm going to report you.' That usually stops it."
Fortunately, Maureen and Richard were too smart to fall for any of these so-called lotteries, and now their anger has turned to concern.
By telling their story, they say they'll make it their mission to make sure you don't become a victim either..
"Unfortunately there are so many people, elderly and not elderly, who are out of work and how many of them are going to fall for this."
So what should you do if a letter arrives in the mail or you receive a phone call claiming you've won a lottery? Again, the state Department of Consumer Affairs advises to alert the person or people that you believe this is a scam and you're going to report it. And of course as always contact the state Department of Consumer Affairs to alert them as well.
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