Advance Fee Sweeps

Schemes, Scams, Frauds.

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Advance Fee Canadian Lottery Scams Sweepstakes Fraud -
Foreign International Scam Lotteries -
Western Union Transfers - Elderly Senior Victims


Some cons are even too lazy to operate a fake prize company which stores and distributes worthless trinkets and consumer "goods". They opt instead for the workings of the straight "advance fee" scam which offers nothing but lies in exchange for a down payment on a dream.

Every one has likely received one in the mail by now. A card stating "You've won!" Just call this number to find out how much you've won and how to collect your prize.

Likely you just threw it away. But if, like others who were convinced they had won a valuable prize, you had called the number provided, you would have been kept on hold, or slowly forced through an automated response system until finally, after punching 12 for English and not 1 for Lithuanian, you enter the ticket number and find you are the big winner of exactly $1.00.

Companies mass mail these "Official Claim Certificates" with the same "claim or ID number" to just about every person in the country. The odds of receiving the various awards, or that a purchase is required to receive the award, is disclosed in very small print on the reverse side of the mail piece.

You need to read the entire card carefully to determine how prize winners are selected. While the card may have a list of prizes with a list of winning symbols beside it, you may find that the order in which the prizes are listed does not correspond to the order in which the winning symbols are listed.

If you call once, you are then deluged with a continuous stream of sweepstakes solicitations, all urging you to place additional 900 number telephone calls. Although most consumers realize that they have been scammed after one telephone call, one company, using approximately 400 different false names in its sweepstakes solicitations, tricked some into calling repeatedly.

Do you think they make any money doing this? Consider that it's been going on for years and then try to imagine the cost of sending out all those cards to every household in North America. You just don't spend that kind of money unless it's coming back in droves.


Time Is Money

Thirty states will share in a $3 million bankruptcy claim settlement involving one of the country's largest direct mail sweepstakes operations, Direct American Marketers Inc., or DAMI. It is believed to be the first effort by Attorneys General to collectively pursue and settle claims for violations of individual state's consumer fraud laws through the bankruptcy courts.

Formed in 1986, DAMI sent tens of millions of sweepstakes solicitations nationwide, encouraged recipients to call a 900 number to claim their prize, or learn if they had won. As a result of the 900 number services sold through these sweepstakes, DAMI generated hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.

During 1994-97 more than 65,000 people in Rhode Island alone spent more than $1.5 million to participate. Once connected, at a rate of $3.98 per minute, it would take several minutes before the consumer knew if they had won. The average call typically took seven minutes so a charge of between $20 to $40 later appeared on their telephone bill.

You would think people who have been tricked would tell their friends how stupid they were so that others can avoid making the same mistake. Right! They might just as well put a dunce cap on as listen to the sanctimonious people they are trying  to help tell them how gullible they were.

"It's so obvious! Nobody would ever fall for that! You must have more money than brains!"

This holds true for the victims of most scams and is something that the people running them rely on. And as long as something, however worthless, is received in exchange for their money, people rationalize it as a "bad purchase" rather than a scam.

Once they add an element of chance to the operation the victim can rationalize any losses as being "unlucky" or "an investment gone bad". After all, if they were good enough to give you a chance to win you can't get too upset about the possibility of losing. In fact, you are probably used to it. And besides, they say you are sure to win the next time around.

Pass the Salt Ed!

One pair of telemarketers falsely informed victims that they had won the Publishers' Clearinghouse grand prize of up to $10 million, conditioned on their prepayment of "federal income tax" on the prize money.

To convince intended victims that they had truly won the Publishers' Clearinghouse Prize, they even promised the victims that Ed McMahon would deliver the prize to them and take them out to lunch.

In some instances, they attempted to gain the sympathy of the victims by informing them that they were disabled Vietnam veterans. The individual victims each paid "taxes" of between $20,000 and $270,000 to the co-conspirators, totaling over $1 million in fraudulently induced payments.

It's Your Duty To Pay

The caller may even pretend to be a federal official or customs agent requesting payment of taxes and custom fees on your winnings. They will say there is the matter of a 7% customs duty to release your $100,000 in winnings being held at the border.

"Just send that cheque for $7000 today please".

Our Mistake

Or you may get a call from someone claiming to represent American Family Publishers. Apologetic, they explain:

"Through an administrative oversight, we failed to notify you that you have been selected in our sweepstakes contest to win $250,000. We have been able to arrange to deliver that prize to you. All you have to do is send to us the $6,000 release fee that you were supposed to originally pay."

"I want you to do just two things: First, go to your bank and get a money order, payable to cash, for $6,000. Second, go to your local Western Union office and pick up a mailing envelope. I will call you back in a few hours to confirm that you have these items. At that time, I will give you instructions on where to send for your $250,000 check."

The Taxman Cometh - Tax Escrow Account Scam

The following scammer received a 30-month sentence after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Using an assumed name, he contacted his victims by phone, identified himself as a representative of Office Depot, and informed them that they had won a cash prize (usually totaling between $100,000 and $250,000), in a sweepstakes conducted by his company.

In order to receive the prize money the "winners" would have to set up an account with the IRS into which they were required to deposit a taxation fee totaling one percent of the prize. He would then offer to collect that money and set up the account for the victim.

He instructed them to send the money in the form of a cashier's check via express mail to "Tom Harvey, Marketing Office Depot, 2151 East 1st Street, Santa Ana, California."

The name was his alias, and the address was that of a hotel which he temporarily called home and from where he made many interstate phone calls to his victims.

You may realize that the government collects taxes on winnings, but not that the payment is made directly by you to them without a middleman.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

You could also get a call stating that you have won a "valuable monetary prize" in a contest you do not remember entering. There is just the issue of some money being needed to cover administration costs. Send just $69 and your money is on its way.

The prize you receive is not money but a bronze coin encased in plastic, which is said to be of Roman origin, along with a framed certificate of authenticity. Actual value? $6.99. This is more than the people who, promised a "presidential relief cast in copper", wound up with a penny depicting Lincoln.

Time To Count Their Money

The owner and operator of Consolidated Premium Group, a large telemarketing fraud ring that preyed on elderly citizens, was sentenced to 135 months in prison on conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges in an 18-count indictment. He was also ordered to pay $360,000 restitution in U.S. dollars to U.S. victims and $1,380,828 in Canadian dollars to Canadian victims.

He falsely told people that they had won a sweepstakes or other contest and would receive a valuable prize, promotional item or cash. To receive the prize, they were told they had to pay a fee to Consolidated supposedly for taxes, duties or promotional expenses. He admitted that there were no prizes.

One of his telemarketers was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his role which began by making almost daily calls to a widow until he gradually won her confidence. He then informed her that she had won $150,000 in a sweepstakes, and that she could claim her winnings by first paying taxes and fees of $9000.

After she paid, he continued the frequent calls over the next four months, and informed her that her prize, as yet unpaid, had increased to $1.1 million, then to $3 million. In the end, she had sent $199,000 to them for various purported taxes and fees. They also got three other victims to send total amounts of $36,000, $22,000 and $25,000.


It's Official

"Award/Entitlement Verification Form"

"Award Transfer Claim."

"You are positively confirmed, eligible for cash award of $15,000"

You get a personalized letter through the mail notifying you that you are eligible to receive a cash prize of up to $15,000. The letter states that the cash can be released after an attached claim form, that requires payment of a "transferal and release fee", is completed and returned.

The transferal fee is only $20. You respond and get, not a cash award, but a "discount coupon book."

Using at least thirteen trade names including, "Award Notification Service," "National Sweepstakes Audit Center," "Registered Sweepstakes Systems" and "National Judging Services" one company alone receives roughly $22,500 in 3,000 letters on a daily basis from unsuspecting consumers.

At least two of their envelopes use the words "Internal Monitorings Services" and "U.S. Entitlement Service," implying an official government relationship. People who remit fees become targets of similar sweepstakes solicitations that seek larger fees.

The backs of the letters contain lengthy, compressed, single spaced "Official Rules" which are confusing, inconsistent, not personalized and would seem not to apply to the recipient.

A Loonie Exchange

EMP 2000 located in Montreal, Quebec, has been calling with promises of thousands of dollars in sweepstakes winnings. EMP 2000 tells you that you have won $50,000 that will be payable in five monthly payments of $10,000.

If you take the bait, you will receive a certified check which purports to be written on the account of the law firm of Miller, Jameson, McLaren & Associates and is sent by courier. You are phoned upon its arrival and told that you must immediately wire more than $3,000 to EMP 2000 to cover the difference in the exchange rate between Canadian and US dollars which was accidentally paid to you.

The certified cheque is discovered, ( too late to stop the real one you couriered to them ) to be a forgery. The law firm doesn't exist at all. A similar con follows the same procedure but demands 12% for "attorney fees".

Dumpster Draw

In one sweepstakes, which promised a big cash winning if you send just $19.95 or $21.95 for priority service, investigators determined that if the draw had been held the odds were only 1 in 750,000. The fact that the dumpster in back of their building was full of entry slips somewhat reduced your chances even further.


Gone But Not Forgotten

Sent in by Dwane Epp 10/25/01

I am writing to you in regard to a phone fraud perpetrated against my mother which involves the so-called recovery of funds promised by a former Quebec-based boiler room phone fraud operation.

She initially had forwarded money to a promotional prize distribution company called Protel, which, at the time, claimed she was a contest money winner. To release these prize winnings a large amount of taxes needed to be paid.

After consistent urging by me she finally contacted the PhoneBusters organization but not until she had lost a considerable amount of her personal funds.

At that time the RCMP were involved in a number of fraud-related investigations and charges laid against Protel. She was informed not to expect to recover any of the money that she had lost.

Shortly thereafter she received a call from a "US customs official" who claimed to have, in his possession, an amount of money as a prize disbursement and that duty was required to have these funds released to her.

She expressed that she did not have that amount available. Then, as result of a subsequent conversation, the matter was apparently to handed off to an Ottawa based customs brokerage firm.

She was to be contacted by a Mr. Parker in respect to finalizing the transfer of these funds and satisfying the legal and financial aspects (tariff) associated with this type of a transaction.

We had numerous conversations with Mr. Parker and his supposed employer Mr. Stewart (Stuart?) who consistently assured my mother and, subsequently myself, that this was all an entirely legitimate attempt to provide us with these funds.

Our requests to have them legitimize their claims; provide a company name; documentation, have never been realized yet to this day I still receive telephone calls from Mr. Parker.

We have consistently been asked to provide additional funds to cover various documentation/legal fees, to provide and expedite, the safe, legal transfer of these funds which had now, because of the interest accumulated, grown to a rather large sum. This has always been used as a tool to overcome any resistance we offer.

Mr. Parker has left us with a telephone number that we have used this entire time (five years) to contact him if we happen to miss his calls. Every time he stresses the urgency to have the funds transferred and every time he asks for additional money to be wired with the promise that we will receive the winnings money the very same day.

And of course this has never come to be. I have been informed by the Phone Busters organization that this is most likely a continuation of the organized fraud attempts that mother had been a victim of initially.

It is very disturbing that these people operate with little or no conscience and that they target those who are the most vulnerable. I feel most concerned for the elderly who deserve to be left alone and enjoy the time and resources that they need to enjoy their latter years.

Sadly, my mother has since passed away from cancer. I strongly believe that it was a result of this situation that her dignity, and, subsequently, her health suffered. She was robbed of both the time and energy she needed to recover from her illness, not to mention the money.

The individuals involved have stolen those precious moments from her along with the resources she needed to provide herself a little bit of comfort during her greatest time of need.

I hope that, with this information, you are able to further reinforce your efforts to investigate and provide evidence against those who continue to cheat and steal from innocent and vulnerable people and to help make those involved face the consequences of their acts.


Too Late To Break Her Fall

5 Nov 2001

My jaw aches from dropping while reading your various reports. Three months ago, when my 83-year old mother-in-law fell and broke her tailbone I volunteered to take care of her during the day. My first clue that something else was wrong occurred when I brought her mail in from the box.

I had to carry in no less than FIFTY envelopes and packages, all bearing markings such as "Official Notification," "Congratulations, You're a Winner!" and "Immediate Response Required."   I asked her about all the mail, and she said it was just some of my brother-in-law's mail and to leave it for her to open.

Each day, more and more envelopes and packages arrived. Finally, by the fourth day, I asked the mailman about her mail. He said he was concerned, too, and had even mentioned it to neighbors.

My brother in law, who is in and out of the area, said she had called him earlier this summer and told him she'd won the Canadian lottery, but that she had to send the tax money before she would get her reward.

He told her not to do it of course but when he arrived several days later, he saw her checkbook out on the table, and read it. Horrified, he found countless entries to companies such as Puzzle-Rama, CashOrama, Millennium Madness, and Top Choice, with amounts of $10-$29.99 listed. He also found some unidentified withdrawals, only with the notes "Canadian lottery" and in much larger amounts, up to over $400.

Then, while helping to clean her apartment I also found many plastic grocery bags full of envelopes with notations of check payments and written comments such as, "Sent $29.99, when will the check come?" and "I sent this in, but I don't want the car, just the cash."

Totaling these check entries over the six months since March 2001, I determined that she had sent over $6,000 to these companies, representing most of her Social Security income.

I have not had the opportunity to delve further, but I do know that her cash reserves are totally depleted and I think she started with these companies about two years ago.

My brother in law has power of attorney, so we were able to go over her current month's bank statement. We soon realized that several marketing companies had her checking account number and were making unauthorized withdrawals from her account as well as those she "authorized" when these companies telephoned her.

I intercepted one such call which was asking her to buy Canadian lottery tickets. When I told the party to cancel the authorization I had some rather rude comments personally directed to me.

The same party called back several hours later, but I was still at the house. Unfortunately, when I called back the number posted on the caller ID, it was a fax number, so I could not trace anything.

I have spent the past month freezing her old account; diverting her mail to a post office box; reporting pertinent information to PhoneBusters in Canada, writing a letter to the state attorney general here; requesting refunds on withdrawals ( I was actually successful in recouping $400 with this tactic); notifying the Direct Marketing Association to withdraw her name and number from any lists and writing some companies individually two, three and sometimes four times. Whenever they mentioned a "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" opportunity, I also asked for that, too.

The mailings have dwindled to about ten per day. I know she is not too happy with my handling of the situation, but we were all headed for a financial crisis if we did not put a stop to this.

I am now in the process of gaining power of attorney, too, because I believe it's absolutely necessary in these situations for one family member to assume control. When I raised my children, I always made it a rule that if they put themselves, or others, in danger, I would take drastic action. I'm afraid I now find myself doing this with someone who needs this protective attention just as much, even if she is an adult. It is very hard.

The tragedy was that her friends and her other son TOLD her these were scams, but to this day she will not admit it. I even found among her papers news clippings regarding these kinds of mailings and information about a "scam bill" our local senator was planning to sponsor last year. She told me she just wanted to have "fun" with these contests.

My suggestions include TELLING everyone involved about the situation. Put aside any false sense of pride. Report, report, report. The bank managers, the post office employees, the neighbors, and even her friends know her predicament and know that I am dealing with it.

I am amazed at the number of people who now share their own personal experiences in this "newer" area of adult children caring for parents once I tell them about my situation. Yet, until now they've stayed silent, which I think is what allows these deceptive companies to stay in business.

From my research, I know education efforts are circulated from government agencies, such as the state attorney generals and the U.S. Post Office, senior associations such as the AARP and the media, both print and television. Unfortunately, I don't think the senior group always "gets" the message.

However, the public must realize this is a true epidemic. These mail and telemarketing scams create their own infection and cause so much financial damage.

I have determined that a "Walter Karl" Company In New York under the Donnelley Marketing group sells its sweepstakes lists. The Walter Karl Co. apparently operates Millenium Madness, Cashorama, and Puzzles Plus, among others, if I'm reading the on web information correctly. So they make money not only on the various sweepstakes, but also on selling names on the mailing lists.

I know we are fighting on many fronts today, but this one needs attention, too. Thank you for taking the time to provide this site.


Taxing To Remember Aliases

On November 15, 2000, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Louisiana indicted Nelson Guerrero, of British Columbia, on six counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering.

Guerrero and others allegedly operated a fraudulent telemarketing business in Canada that telephoned victims and promised them a substantial cash prize if they sent payments to cover "taxes" and to convert Canadian currency to U.S. dollars. Guerrero also allegedly used the aliases Nelson Ramirez, Alex Roberto, and Anthony Miranda.


Shark Takes The Bait

02/00 - An extradited Montreal telemarketer, Ronald James Blum, 33, a/k/a "Sharky," pleaded guilty to one criminal count of unlawful merchandising practices in Missouri and was given the full five years to be served concurrent with federal wire and mail fraud charges which netted him 52 months.

Caught in a sting operation, he identified himself as Randall Parham, a Quebec judge who was disbursing prize money left by a defunct contest company. He told a female investigator, in a recorded call, that she could claim prizes totaling $100,000 by sending him more than $18,000 as payment for taxes to the Canadian government.

He had been indicted by a Missouri grand jury in 1998 based partly on undercover tapes made in late 1995.


Giving Banks a Bad Rep

07/01 - A group of three telemarketers operating a 'Sweepstakes' fraud out of Quebec drove from Montreal to Toronto to further victimize a 90-year-old woman had lost over $8,000 to them already during the past year.

They went to the victim's house and identified themselves as being bank representatives, and told her that she was the grand prizewinner of $800,000 in the Prestige Inc. Sweepstakes but in order to receive the prize they required a percentage of the proposed cash deposit.

They then escorted her to her bank and assisted her in withdrawing monies from her account leaving it overdrawn but with the assurance that they would mail the winning cheque to her.

Arrested and charged with Fraud Over $5,000 prior to leaving the Toronto area were Stephen Roberts, 42, Lysa Shanks, 31, and Michelle Joseph, 27, all from Montreal.


Banks Seek to Protect Themselves

Several U.S. banks have recently experienced several large losses from deposited Canadian checks which were returned as late as six months later due to a claim of fraudulent origin.

In one case an elderly customer was contacted by someone who told her she had won a car in a Canadian lottery but that they needed a deposit from her of nearly $3,000. She must have sounded skeptical so they told her to send along the check, made out to them - but to leave it unsigned - so that they could not cash it.

She sent the check, completely filled out, but unsigned, to Canada. They called her again saying that they needed her to send another check for $2,500, again unsigned. At this point she refused and requested that they send the first check back. The fraudulent telemarketer then forged her name on the first check and cashed it.

Since the bank didn't catch the forged signature within the 24 hour deadline, they are going to be responsible for the $3,000.

In another case an elderly lady received both a letter and a check from Canada saying that she had won the lottery. The check was made out to her and displayed the name of a bank in Canada along with the bank's phone number.

The letter gave the elderly recipient instructions to cash the check and then immediately mail a cashiers check to the address stated in the letter for the required payment of taxes on her winnings.

The bank diligently called the phone number that was on the check to verify funds, but little did they know (until it was too late), that the phone was, in fact, a cell phone and the bank was a fictitious entity. The person on the cell phone officiously verified funds available and so the bank cashed the check for the "winner" for a very large amount of money.

The lady then took some of that money and dutifully bought a cashiers check to pay the taxes on her winnings and mailed the check to the address on the envelope, which was probably a post office box. By the time the check that represented her lottery winnings bounced, her check to pay the taxes had been cashed by the criminals.

With ready access to her account, the bank managed to get back most of the money that the lady falsely thought were her winnings and then held her accountable for the money she had sent off to pay her taxes, which was a lot of money.

The cons suckered her in because she had actually received money in hand. Once she thought she had her winnings in her account, she gladly paid taxes on it. Ignorance of banking laws is no excuse apparently.

In an FDIC alert about the Canadian Lottery scam, a Canadian Mounted Police report indicates that  they learned that U.S. banks "can freeze funds for a period of up to 14 days in order to confirm funds are secured" under an agreement between Canada and the US for the timely return of checks, although no reference of this can be found and a Canadian attorney consulted on the matter did not believe any such agreement exists.

Some banks have therefore established a $1,000 threshold for consumers and $5,000 for businesses based upon what they felt was an acceptable risk level for banks of their size.

Two tiers were created based on the level of recapture risk - the likelihood of being able to recapture funds from the customer should a deposited Canadian check be returned later for reasons of fraud.

However, even for deposits below these thresholds, they plan to place holds on the funds for the average three weeks it takes for a Canadian NSF check to be returned.

High collection fees imposed upon the customers by the banks correspondent processor is apparently one reason not all Canadian checks are sent as collection items.


Elder Wins, Falls and Breaks Her Hope

04/02 - A 75-year-old Palo Alto, CA woman's entire retirement fund -- nearly $600,000 -- was lost to an advance fee sweepstakes scam which used the name Windfall Investments Ltd.

The official looking letters indicated it was a lottery where you just picked a series of numbers and if you got some of them right you'd win millions. There was no obvious catch.

The woman played. She sent in a form with her picks. And then the amazing calls began -- their voices filled with warm congratulations and authority.

She had won $49.1 million. All she had to do was pay taxes on the money and she would start receiving her "windfall." The woman went to her retirement fund and her bank.

It began with two payments of $20,000, which were not wired to Cyprus as she believed, but sent to the Chase Manhattan Bank. From there, it was sent to an offshore account and disappeared..

She hadn't seen a dime yet and the calls from the lottery operation were getting more frequent and frantic. They wanted more and more money.

Never believing that the U.S. Postal Service would send something bad through the mail system she waited patiently for her winnings. Then, tapped out, she finally called the FBI.

When an FBI agent and a social service worker visited the woman after her complaint, they showed up just as someone called her on the phone, screaming and cursing at her to send more money. Investigators have not traced the call or found out who is behind the scam.


Once Bitten

North Of Superior Limited sent me a letter, along with a bunch of confusing sweepstakes high-tech lingo, stating they had a check for $1,000 or the same amount in merchandise waiting for me, but I first had to send a payment of $9.95 so they could promptly get my award off.

I did it and after finding they gave a bogus phone number I want my money back.

I had the same thing happen to me with another company called American Incentive and got a third letter from another company called Contestant Representation Committee, but of course I got the message by then that I was being had.

Jake 05/05/02


I just got a phone call from a Mr. John Smith who said:

"Congratulations, you have won $4 million. Isn't that wonderful!...What are you going to do with all that money?"

He had my name and address and wanted to know if I received a letter stating I had won. I said NO so we determined the zip code was off. Then he says that to get my money I must first go to the bank, take out $1,000.00, and send a Western Union money transfer to John Smith, 205 E. 11th Street, Vancouver B.C., Canada.

Afterwards I was to call 1-604-788-9554 and get a confirmation number. Only then would he send the $ 4 million by Fed-X.

I did not send any money and the next day he calls to ask: "Did you send the money?"  "Well, you have two options, send me the money and I'll send yours, or I can send this money to a charity of your choice. So which is it?"

I said: "To be honest, I do not believe you need $1,000 to send this money. Besides, you can wire it directly to my bank. It will be cheaper, it confirms receipt, and I could pay any taxes then."

He thought I was not in my right mind, I guess, and didn't like that at all.... I hung up the phone.

Pamela Bambula 7-10-02


The Bell Tolls For Thee

Often, the initial call is accompanied with a background sound-track of ringing bells and other "prize-winning" noises usually heard when one's slot machine pays off.


A phone scheme told her she had won a prize in a sweepstakes

JODY LAWRENCE-TURNER - Statesman Journal

01/24/04 - A Salem woman who was bilked out of $194 narrowly avoided being taken for thousands more by scam artists claiming to represent a well-known sweepstakes, police said.

The scam came to light this week when the West Salem resident attempted to get a $3,500 advance on her credit card to pay “taxes”on a bogus $250,000 prize from Reader’s Digest.

However, a Visa credit card representative who questioned the 91-year-old woman’s large transaction helped her avoid the fraud.

The woman said the credit-card representative’s questioning triggered her to talk to her attorney, who then called police.

The Statesman Journal is not identifying the woman to help protect her from possibly being victimized again.

“I wasn't using my mind with all the excitement and everything," she said, “even though it didn't sound right."

Salem police took a report on the incident but said there was not much they could do because the calls came from out of state.

The people claiming to be from Reader’s Digest first contacted the woman by phone on Monday, said Lt. Dan Cary of the Salem Police Department.

The caller said the target had won $50,000 in a sweepstakes, and all she needed to do was send $34 by Western Union to a man in Atlanta.

She did as he instructed, Cary said.

The next day, a man called and said there was a mix up. He told her she had won $250,000 and all she needed to do was send an additional $160 to the same name and location.

Again, she did what the man told her, Cary said.

Then came a third call on Wednesday.

This time the man said he were going to add $10,000 to the woman’s prize money to help pay for taxes on her prize, but she needed to send $3,500 for the full tax payment.

This time, the money was to be sent to a different name via Western Union in Decatur, Ga.

When she went to get the money advanced on her Visa, the representative cautioned that it might be a scam.

Meanwhile, the woman called her lawyer and he contacted Salem Police Department, Cary said.

While the police officer was taking a report from the woman, the man called a fourth time.

Cary said she put the officer on the phone and the man promptly hung up.

Sgt. Keith Blair, detective in charge of property crimes, said they will send the report to the FBI.

Susan Brown, a spokeswoman for Reader’s Digest, said the company planned its own investigation of the scam.

“We absolutely would never call the person. They are notified by certified mail, and they contact us," Brown said in clarifying the Reader's Digest sweepstakes policy. “And we never ask for money."

Brown cautioned that people should never send money to anyone unless they have ordered something or know who the recipient is.


His Secret is Safe on the Web

02/04 - Ludlow, Vt. - Real Lussier should have known better. He knows it.

But something about the idea of winning $396,000 was, frankly, irresistible and exciting. So the 61-year-old retired tobacco farm manager became a victim of telemarketing fraud, losing $5,801 in cash he sent through Western Union to an account he thinks was in Costa Rica.

"Please don't tell my three kids; especially my daughter, she's going to kill me," Lussier said last week, adding that his children live out of state so he's not worried they will read about his mistake in the paper.

Telemarketing fraud is a $40 billion-a-year business, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The FBI says 14,000 fraudulent telemarketing calls are made every day in the United States.

Lussier's troubles started Jan. 21 with a solicitation from a man who called himself Joseph Moore and said Lussier had won $396,000. Moore asked for a 3 percent delivery charge, about $11,000.

"I told him I don't have that kind of money - just send it to me," Lussier recalled. The man called back two days later, asking for $10,000, to "release" his winnings. Lussier said he negotiated the charge down to $1,200, and sent cash to Costa Rica.

A follow-up call a few days later asked for more money. Again, Lussier sent money, this time in two different checks, $2,114 and the other $2,325. He called Costa Rica to say he had sent the money.

The telephone number was dead the next day, after he spent the morning waiting at his home for the call he expected, saying the money had arrived in Burlington.

Lussier said his bank manager, his friends, and even the manager of the Western Union office in Ludlow tried to warn him against sending the money.

Now, he hopes others learn from his mistake.

Lee Pugh, senior counsel at the FBI regional office in Albany, N.Y., said his office receives dozens of similar complaints each month.

"There's no reason to be ashamed. Anybody can be fooled," Pugh said Friday. He said the "advance fee scheme," which tripped up Lussier, has been used on unsuspecting people for about 100 years.

"It's almost like the Venus fly trap. They know what buttons to push," he said.


Officialy Endorsed Advance Fee Fraud

03/04 - Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval has warned that someone posing as him has been telephoning Nevadans and trying to scam them out of money.

Sandoval said Wednesday that people are reporting calls from a person who claims they’ve won as much as $350,000. The caller then says the money must be insured before the winner gets it —and the insurance costs $3,500.

Moments later, residents get a call from someone claiming to be Sandoval, who says he has investigated the company and the prize offer is legitimate.

“The verification call, allegedly from me, is nothing less than an outrageous and misleading endorsement of the company and a false claim of a guarantee from our office that the prize offered is legitimate," Sandoval said.


Sweepstakes scam artist steals $4,000

03/14/04 - BETHLEHEM, PA -- An elderly woman was conned out of about $4,000 by a man who claimed she had won a Canadian Sweepstakes, police said.

Miriam Griffing, 74, received a call from a man who identified himself as "Allen Blakely" of U.S. Customs, who said she had won $5 million, a police report says.

Griffing, of the 700 block of Main Street, was reportedly told she had to send about $2,000 to Canada via a "Moneygram" from a nearby Wal-Mart.

Griffing promptly took out a $5,000 loan and sent the money, plus a $103 fee, on Thursday, the report says.

On Friday she was told by Blakely to send another $1,900 to Canada and two FBI agents would escort her to a bank to collect her prize, the report says.

Griffing sent the money and paid the fee, but no one showed up, the report says.

She called police, but by then the money had been picked up, the report says.

The people involved in this scam reportedly use false identifications to collect the money.

By JEFF SCHOGOL The Express-Times


Man Arrested, Targeted Elderly Victims in Sweepstakes Scam

DECATUR, GA 04/02/04 - (AP) - A DeKalb County man who admitted guilt in a phony sweepstakes scheme has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Undra Fletcher, 37, pleaded guilty Monday to telemarketing fraud and other charges related to telephoning elderly people and telling them they had earned about a million dollars in a sweepstakes but had to send him $8,500 to pay taxes on the winnings.

He was jailed after being arrested in the spring of 2002, but authorities said he tried the scheme again after being released on bond in October.

Fletcher was convicted in 1997 of using the same scam against an elderly victim. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution.


We Caught Them, You're Next

04/02/04 - Streator Illinois police are warning citizens to be aware of a telephone scam that has reached the area.

According to police, two women received a similar telephone call, today and last Wednesday, from a person claiming to be Detective William Grant from Internal Investigations of Canada. The caller said his badge number is 6225 in both cases.

The caller claims that the IIC busted a ring of Internet hackers last August who supposedly stole over $1.3 million over the World Wide Web. The caller then said the money was stolen from Publishers Clearinghouse of Canada and the United States, and told both women they are eligible to claim $680,000 if they send $2,950 to him via Western Union.

After the money is wired to the caller, then he claimed he would send federal tax exemption and insurance refund forms to be filled out, and an attorney would contact the women regarding how to collect their “winnings.”


Sweepstake Mania - Scam from Romania

04/16/04 (KFOR.com) An Oklahoma woman said she was thrilled to learn she had won $1 million from the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. But now she's worried she may be the victim of a con.

It was a shocker a day ago when Delores McMillion picked up the phone and heard the words we would all love to hear: you have won $500,000 from the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

"And, he said, 'This is for true. It's for real.' "

Now McMillion has been dealing with Publisher's Clearinghouse for years and gets a lot of mail from them. Could this be her time?

The man on the phone said he would be bringing the check right to her house in Oklahoma City, but there were some rules.

"One thing, you send the money and don't tell anyone about the money," she said.

Now the money she was to send was for the taxes, they said. Did she go along with it?

"Oh, I sent them $1,100 yesterday," she said.

"Were you able to stop payment on the check?"

"No, it wasn't a check it was Western Union and they received it by the time I walked out the door," she said.

Strangely enough, the money had to be wired to Romania where it was picked up. And, amazingly, after sending the money they called her again and said the million-dollar winner was disqualified and McMillion would get that money. All she had to do was send them $30,000 for taxes. She said she couldn't do that, then they started negotiating down to $1,000, which helped her figure out it was a scam.

"He said, 'Can you borrow the money?' and I said, 'No, I can't.' And at that moment he hung up," she said.

That's when McMillion realized she had been taken and called the real Publisher's Clearinghouse. They don't work that way. If you win, they will not call, they'll just show up at your house with marked cars and cameras.

An embarrassed McMillion said she doesn't want this to happen to you. So, if you get the call, remember this story and the fact the Clearinghouse doesn't call, they just knock on your door.


Who to Believe, Crooks or Cops?

Minnesota - On April 20, 2004, an employee at the Money Center called to report that an elderly woman might be getting scammed. The 93-year-old woman was trying to wire $1,200 to an address that the Money Center had listed as a bad account in Canada.

Investigating officers learned that she had been told by telephone that she had won a sweepstakes from New Zealand, and that she had to send the $1,200 to receive it. Police intervened before she could send the money, although she was insistent that she had won and did not want their intervention.

An 81-year-old woman received a call during which she was told she had won a $3.5 million Canadian lottery prize. She was instructed to send appropriate taxes – more than $3,000 – to an address in Jamaica. She sent it in two payments, then asked her son for a $2,000 loan for a final payment. Her son alerted police.

According to the police report, the victim insisted that her lottery money would have been on the way if she had sent the last $2,000.

Victims’ reluctance to believe they’re being duped is a source of frustration, said the investigating officer.

“I talked to her [the woman who lost more than $3,000] for an hour about these scams," he said. “I thought she understood, but at the end she said that they would be at her door if she had only sent that $2,000."

Another frustration, he said, is the fact that follow-up investigations into the culprits are not likely to yield any arrests. Not only are they savvy, but the investigation is multi-jurisdictional. This poses many problems for law enforcement.


Lottery scam alert - Scammers from Quebec cost local woman thousands

BY AUSTIN L. MILLER - STAFF WRITER - Ocala Start Banner

06/12/04 - OCALA - Sheriff's deputies are asking residents to be aware of a scam that informs unsuspecting callers that they have won the U.S. and English lotteries. But, according to sheriff's officials, before the money can be sent, you must purchase an insurance policy.

On Thursday, a sheriff's deputy was notified by a Bank of America manager that a customer had withdrawn large amounts of money.

The customer, a 72-year-old Silver Springs woman, told the bank employee that she had won the England and U.S. lottery and the money was being used for insurance purposes, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The deputy then contacted the woman and she told him that on June 2, "Tiffany" called her home and told her she had won the U.S. lottery and was slated to receive $250,000. However, before she could receive the money, she would have to purchase an insurance policy for $1,400.

The woman told the deputy she bought a Moneygram for $1,400 and sent it to an unknown address in LaSalle, Quebec.

The next day, June 3, "Tiffany" again contacted the woman and told her that her name had been drawn in England and she had won that country's lottery. Before she could receive the prize money, the woman had to purchase another insurance policy, this time for $1,775. She then sent another Moneygram to the same address in Canada.

On June 4, "Eric Johnson" - from an unknown insurance company - called and told her that she would have to send more money to secure the insurance policy she bought. Before the day ended, the woman had sent a total of $3,875. The money was sent by Western Union.

Three days later, "Vince" from Quebec called five different times and told her she needed to send more money for insurance policies. She then sent $2,900 by Western Union. The money was charged on her Visa card. Authorities said the scam victim spent $900 in Western Union charges for sending the funds.

In two days, on three separate occasions, according to the Sheriff's Office report, she sent $8,700, which was charged to her Visa credit card. Then, on Thursday, the woman withdrew $1,900 from her account and was going to send it to Canada when the bank manager called the Sheriff's Office.

Throughout the scam, she sent a total of $18,650, according to Sheriff's Office reports. However, deputies contacted Visa, and the company was able to cancel four $2,900 charges placed on the woman's credit card.

In the end, she lost $7,950, including Western Union fees.

A federal immigration and customs detective from Jacksonville, who was notified by a sheriff's deputy about the scam, said the government has received reports about a similar scam in that area a month ago. Authorities in Canada have been notified about the scam, according to the Sheriff's Office report, and they are following up on the case.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Lenny Uptagraft said residents need to be careful about any information they receive that may be too assuring.

"If it sounds too good to be true, then probably it is," Uptagraft said.

Sgt. Russ Kern of the Ocala Police Department said people should always verify any information they receive about winning any prizes.

"People should be very leery of those who don't want you to verify any information, or, when they contact you, they want your money right now. If that happens, then you should contact law enforcement immediately," Kern said.


Articles on Advance Fee Sweepstakes Scams

Canadian Lottery Sweepstake Scams - article was at www.pjstar.com/news/local/b1ko0j6p014.html

Costa Rica Advance Fee Insurance Bond Sweepstakes Scam

Costa Rica Prize Scam Western Union Payment Fraud - article

Fake Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes scam - article

Canadian Sweepstakes Scam Dupes Elderly Victims - article

Readers Digest Winner Scam

Astra Loto Prize Inc Canadian Lottery Scam - article

 

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