POWELL (WATE) – Something that many people would want to hear is, “You’ve won the lottery!” When the information comes from a scammer trying to steal your money, beware. It’s no game.
With two months left before Christmas, thousands of these letters will likely be mailed. The Federal Trade Commission is warning people to watch out for fake lottery scams involving the fraudulent use of the Mega Millions name or logo. Some of the phony names being used include Mega Millions Mobile Lottery, Mega Millions International Lottery and American Mega Lottery.
A letter with the “American Mega Lottery” heading was received in Powell just the other day.
“I got this letter in the mail saying that I won $250,000. And I had to deposit this check in my bank account,” said Allison Dawson.
Dawson received a check she got in the mail for $6,950 to help pay for her winnings.
“I was supposed to call him right back, don’t go public with it, keep my letter,” Dawson said.
The letter came from the “American Mega Lottery” from Las Vegas and London, England. To collect her money, the correspondence came with more instructions for her to follow.
“Call him right back so he could set me up with a tax advisor for my money,” she said.
You’d need a tax adviser, too, if you got swindled by this scam.
“When I called the guy, he told me to deposit it in my bank account and call him right back,” said Dawson.
She was also told what the check represented and why she was sent it – to help pay taxes, handling and shipping fees. She was also assigned a security number and given more instructions.
“When I call him, he asks me the PIN number, then he puts me on hold and tells me he has to activate the check,” Dawson said.
The check appears real and is meant to. It has realistic water marks and a heat sensitive marking that disappears when you touch it. However, the check is phony. If Dawson had deposited it, she would be out almost $7,000.
“It is a scam, obviously. It gets your attention, holiday season. People get ready to start their shopping for Thanksgiving and Christmas and you get, wow a $6,900 check,” said Better Business Bureau President Jerry Tipton.
Tipton says his office gets calls from folks receiving these types of deceptive letters.
“And they are sending out thousands of these to people and many people will bite on these unfortunately,” he said.
Here are some tips that can prevent you from being scammed:
- If someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played, be suspicious.
- If you are told you need to keep your win “confidential,” be suspicious.
- If you are told you can “verify” the prize by calling a certain number, be suspicious.
Remember also, no real lottery would tell a winner to put up money to collect a prize.
There is a real Mega Millions lottery, but no representative of Mega Millions would ever call, email or send a letter to anyone about winning a prize. Just the fact that Dawson received a letter at all is odd. If you enter a lottery, you buy tickets and the lottery has no idea who the winners are before they walk into lottery headquarters and redeem the ticket. All the tickets are bought anonymously.
The scams take many forms and the scammers use many tricks.