Avoid Foreign Lottery Scams

March 17, 2014

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service warns that foreign lottery and sweepstakes fraud cost Americans millions every year and can seriously impact the lives of victims and their families. Entire fortunes, inheritances, and retirement accounts can be wiped-out.

Scammers generally target vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly, but anyone can fall prey to this scam.   Foreign lottery and sweepstakes scammers talk a good game. They ask victims to pay to play, and try to get consumers to send money that’s just for “taxes” and/or “processing fees.” That’s illegal.  In a legitimate sweepstakes, you never have to pay a fee or purchase an item to enter or win.

Foreign lottery solicitations sent to U.S. addresses through the mail are bogus and illegal. They don’t come from foreign government agencies. Instead, they come from con artists who take your money and give you nothing in return

Because scammers often target older Americans, we recommend caregivers speak with their loved ones about sweepstakes fraud and offer the following tips to preserve their financial well-being.

  • Look for stacks of sweepstakes offers or prize notification letters around the home.
  • Monitor all bank accounts for unusual activity.
  • Identify unknown and recurring payments.
  • Discuss wire-transfer patterns or checks made out to cash.
  • Remind seniors to never give out personal or financial information over the Internet or phone.
  • Stress the importance of never wiring or sending money to anyone, anywhere who says you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes.
Visit deliveringtrust.com for helpful information on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud.

If you feel you or a loved one have fallen victim to this, or any other fraud scam, report it to Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455, or online at postalinspectors.uspis.gov.

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Above is message for 2014, message from 2013 is below: 

The Maine Agency on Aging and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are teaming up to combat foreign lottery fraud, one of the most financially devastating scams currentlytargeting seniors in the State of Maine.

You might even recognize the hallmarks of the scam: stacks of direct mail inviting you to play this or that offshore lottery; callers from mysterious phone numbers claiming you “won the Jamaican lottery,” but demanding you pay the foreign taxes in cash.

One of just dozens of foreign lottery frauds, the Jamaican scam alone could be bilking older Americans out of as much as $42 million a year; and according to Postal Inspectors, this number is underreported because many victims are too ashamed to file a complaint.

The Postal Inspection Service recommends all consumers learn how to protect themselves and loved ones from these scams and other types of fraud at www.deliveringtrust.com or www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov

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