Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Fake Lottery Tickets

Potential Victims Avoid Fake Lottery Ticket Sellers

08/07- (Indiana) - Almost every day, as many as three dozen times a week, Renee Caton gets letters saying she won prizes ranging from a few thousand dollars to millions. Most of them contain checks, usually with six- or seven-figure totals on them.

The letters and the checks all end up in the wastebasket. It's not that Caton and her husband Jonas, a Valparaiso firefighter, couldn't use a little extra cash. It's that she knows that, despite all the important and official-sounding names on the letterheads, they are all scams.

"I've never responded to any of them, but I keep getting notices," Caton said. "They just don't quit."

Some have called when she didn't respond urging her not to miss out on the millions she has won. One outfit calling itself All-American told her she won $1.5 million in the Australian Powerball drawing. They even paid the $60,000 in taxes on her winnings, and all she had to do was send them $575.60 in processing fees, the caller told her.

Caton was instructed to make out a Western Union money order and give the money to the Western Union delivery person when he delivered the winnings to her Center Township home. They called again to ask if the delivery man had arrived. Told he hadn't, the caller said the delivery man would call soon, and Caton should just send the money.

She didn't, and that was the last she heard from them or the alleged delivery person.

Another outfit, calling itself National Clearinghouse in Canada, called to say a Brinks truck was bringing her prize. All Caton had to do was pay $2,500 for a duty tax and a $60 handling fee. The caller left the number of the American embassy in Ottawa and called every day for several days until Caton contacted the embassy. Then the calls stopped.

"I told the sweepstakes person to deliver the money, and I would give them the money to cover (the duty tax and handling fee). They called to say the truck was held up and to just send the check. I told him we'll wait. It never showed."

The Catons hoped the truck would show up, but not because they expected to collect a big prize. At least, not a monetary one. Jonas Caton made arrangements with fellow firefighters that, if anyone showed up, they would block the scammer's vehicle until police could be summoned.

"We called the police and the prosecutor, but neither of them said they handle that sort of thing," Renee Caton said. "I called the Better Business Bureau and gave them the information."

One of the latest notices she received included a check from "Publishers Clearing" for $4,500 that she was instructed to cash and then return $2,500 to cover the taxes on her prize. She called the bank and discovered the company's account had no money to cover the initial amount. When she called them to ask about it, they hung up, she said.


Sucker List Victim Offered Fake Lottery Tickets Daily

08/07 - (Nebraska) - Every day envelopes pour into Mary Peters’ mailbox from all over the world and they all come with guarantees of big lottery winnings.

Peters, 88, receives about 6-10 promises that she has won a foreign lottery every time her mail is delivered. She said she has received as many as 18 in a single day.

“They never stop,” Peters said. She has collected several boxes of the offers.

Peters’ name and address of the home where she has lived for nearly 60 years is on a “sucker’s list.” Since she responded to an offer several years ago, the mailings have increased ten-fold.

People who respond to telemarketing fraud or sweepstakes mailers are often placed on a sucker list. Sucker lists, which include names, addresses, phone numbers and other information, are created, bought and sold by fraudulent mailers and telemarketers. The lists are considered invaluable because dishonest promoters know that consumers who have been tricked once are likely to be tricked again. It’s called “reloading.”

As a result, people on the sucker list become flooded with letters, e-mails and phone calls with various offers – lottery wins, investment plans, get rich schemes and work from home offers.

And once they start, it’s difficult to make them stop.

Fritz Dodson, Peters’ brother, began collecting the bundles of offers and trying to find out how to get them to stop coming to his sister’s address.

“We reported it to the police and they weren’t too interested,” Dodson said. “I reported them to Attorney General Jon Bruning and all I got back was a calendar and a letter that said, ‘don’t get duped.’”

Lt. Rick Ryan of the North Platte police said they get 4-5 calls from people about the lottery and sweepstakes offers every single week.

“They’re almost all generated from outside the U.S. to avoid prosecution,” Ryan said. “They look like they come from official U.S. banks or businesses but they don’t.”

Ryan said any offer that requires you to send money is not a legitimate one.

“Do not send money or a fee to these places,” Ryan said. “If they ask for money or information, it’s a scam.”

Most of the offers include a realistic looking check, some claim to be “certified.” But the checks are well-disguised frauds and bounce when deposited or cashed.

Richard S. Bialek of North Platte says his misguided faith in a lottery offer could land him in jail.

Bialek, 28, received what he believed was a lottery check from the USA Mega Jackpots in the mail and took it to the Bank of Stapleton in North Platte where he had his account.

A letter accompanying the check said Bialek had won $175,000. The letter told Bialek to keep his winnings confidential and send USA Mega Jackpots $3,500 to cover the “insurance/processing” fee required before the “big funds” would be remitted to him.

On May 21, Bialek deposited the check in his account and immediately took out $1,000. He said the bank verified the check before he deposited it.

Later, Bialek and his wife spent the other $2,500 on a down payment for a trailer house.

When the fraudulent cashier’s check was returned to the bank several weeks later, Bialek said he couldn’t repay it.

“I offered to give the bank titles to all my vehicles as security so I could repay the money,” Bialek said. “But they wouldn’t accept them.”

The bank turned the check over to the Lincoln County Attorney’s office. He was cited by the North Platte police for felony theft by deception and must appear in court August 17. He could face a maximum five-years imprisonment if convicted.

Ryan said an investigator cited Bialek because he believed Bialek knew the check was fraudulent.

Bialek, an apprentice electrician, maintains he is a victim of the fraud and trusted the bank to know whether or not the check was legitimate. He said he intends to fight the charge in court.

“The bank gave us $1,000 immediately,” Bialek said. “If they can’t tell the difference, how can I?”

“These scammers depend on people getting greedy,” Ryan said. “When they receive a big check, people sometimes let greed overtake their common sense.”

Lindee Doyle, a personal banker at Wells Fargo, encourages anyone who wonders if a check they received in the mail is legitimate to talk to their banker.

“If the check is deposited and it turns out to be counterfeit, that amount of money will be removed from their account,” Doyle said. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Doyle said the scams seem to come in waves but regular customers do bring in sweepstakes checks that are fraudulent.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s illegal for any foreign lottery – legitimate or not – to use the U.S. mail to solicit customers. In the last year alone the post office has gone to court to shut down 39 different lottery schemes and destroyed 800,000 of the phony offers that were headed into this country.

Meanwhile, the postal service advises consumers not to throw these letters away. They are following the paper trail and say if you get one, give it right back to your mailman.

Dodson would like to see more done with these fraudulent mailings by law enforcement and postal officials. He believes they prey on the elderly who, sometimes, are trust too much.

“It’s not enough to just throw these fake offers away,” Dodson said. “They need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

If you suspect a fake lottery ticket scam

The FTC has this advice for consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery or what they suspect might be a counterfeit-check lottery scam:

If you are a U.S. citizen and you play a foreign lottery through the mail or by phone, you are violating federal law.

If you buy one foreign lottery ticket, expect more bogus offers for lottery or investment "opportunities." Your name will be placed on "sucker lists" that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.

Keep your Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.

Do not fall for a promise. Telephone solicitations that require an upfront fee for advance-fee loans, unidentified investment opportunities or prize promotions are against U.S. law. Furthermore, legitimate lenders do not guarantee a loan before you apply, especially if you have bad credit or no credit record.

If you do not recognize a telephone area code, check it out in your telephone directory.

The bottom line, the commission says, is to ignore all solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. If you receive lottery material from a foreign country, give it to your local postmaster or contact your state attorney general's office or the FTC.

Don’t fall for fake lottery ticket scams

Do not send any money or personal details to anyone who says that you have won a prize or anything else in a lottery or sweepstake that you have not previously entered. Such claims are almost certainly frauds. Always check fully any person or organization before sending anything to them.

Winning Number Lottery Processing Fees

The processing fee is usually the way to identify these scams. In some cases a 'processing fee' is mentioned in the initial 'win' communication. However some fraudsters wait until the 'win' recipient is sufficiently interested before asking for money.

Up front fees before the release of the 'jackpot' are usually justified as insurance costs, claim verification charge or a fee stipulated by a regulatory authority. There is nothing in British law, nor would there ever be, that requires a prize winner to make any payment in order to claim a prize.

Never respond to any such requests for advance payment.

Advance fee or identity theft - avoid both

Some fraudsters set out to steal identities. Stop and think before you ever release personal information such as passport number, home address, telephone number, banking details, etc, to unknown organizations.

Never wire funds from a check you've received to pay “taxes or fees” for a promised lottery or sweepstakes prize. You'll never see your money again. Reject any kind of scheme that sends you a check and asks you to wire money back.

To avoid all types of lottery scams, never believe a letter, phone call or Internet message from anyone who claims they can guarantee you a prize! Legitimate lotteries do not guarantee that you will win a prize and do not require people to join prize pools to play.

Never pay taxes, insurance, commissions, processing fees or handling charges to claim a lottery prize. State-run lotteries do not require winners to pay anything in advance in order to claim a jackpot.

Keep your Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists ask for them with the goal of accessing your accounts and stealing your money.

Get off the telemarketer's sucker list

Get off the sucker list! You know the one that sends the "winning" foreign lottery offers? Or check fraud scams?

We're not guaranteeing these steps will get you totally off the lists or even stop them from snaring you - but it is a start.

How to avoid getting on the list

Have your name taken off national marketing lists by writing:

Telephone Preference Service, c/o Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9014,

Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014.

Mail Preference Service, c/o Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008,

Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.

1-800-ASK USPS. Prompt where they can be reported.

Never give out your credit card numbers or bank account information unless you have initiated the transaction and know who you are dealing with.

Retain all packaging, do not destroy, consume, or give away anything received.

(North Platte Bulletin)

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