BBB has been warning consumers about the dangers of lottery scams. You didn’t and can’t win an international lottery, no matter what the letter in the mail says. You’ll just end up sending hard-earned money to scammers for non-existent taxes or fees. You could also get I hate seeing people fall for these, especially the elderly.
This week, the Justice Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Marshals Service announced the arrest of two Florida residents who were allegedly involved in an international lottery scam. The arrests are part of a federal crackdown on fraudulent international lottery schemes.
After being indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on Oct. 31, Althea Angela Peart and Charmaine Anne King were arrested on charges that they and their co-conspirators, some of whom were outside of the U.S., took part in a fraudulent lottery scheme.
Elderly victims in the U.S. were allegedly convinced to send thousands of dollars to Peart and King to cover fees for lottery winnings that didn’t exist. Letters were sent to victims, informing them that they had won more than a million dollars in a lottery.
The letters contained fraudulent cashier’s checks made out to the victims for thousands of dollars. They were told by “claims agents” to deposit the money and wire money to Peart and King to cover fees.
Because the checks were fake, the victims had to reimburse their banks for the funds they sent to the scammers. Peart and King allegedly kept a percentage and forwarded part of the money to co-conspirators outside the U.S. The victims paid everything out of their own pockets and there were no lottery winnings.
Peart’s charges include conspiracy, eight counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and with committing these offenses through telemarketing. King is charged with conspiracy, four counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and with committing these offenses through telemarketing.
If you think you might have won a sweepstakes BBB offers the following advice:
- Don’t expect to win a contest you never entered. You can only win a sweepstakes you enter. If you have entered a sweepstakes, keep track of who you’re entering with.
- Don’t get tricked by “official-looking” material. Seals, official-sounding names and terms that imply affiliation with or endorsement by a government entity are commonly used by scammers to fool consumers into thinking they are legitimate.
- A true sweepstakes will not make its winner pay fees. If you are asked to mail or wire money to pay fees or taxes, you’re looking at a scam. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees and taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after winnings are collected.
- Never agree to deposit a check and send a portion to someone else. This is a well-known scam. No matter how legitimate the check may appear to be, no matter what story or reasonable-sounding explanation you are given, you will get burned. A bank teller might accept the check, but when it turns out to be fake, you will have to reimburse the bank.