Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Counterfeit Check for Lottery Sweepstakes Fees - Senior Victims

Consumer Advisory: Lottery Scam With Fraudulent Brita Checks Targets the Elderly

OAKLAND, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 22, 2004--The Brita(R) Products Company today issued a warning about a lottery scam targeting elderly consumers throughout the United States.

Victims of the scam report receiving a letter that claims they have won a large cash prize from the International Lottery Sweepstakes of Canada, accompanied by a fraudulent Brita check to cover lottery fees.

To collect their winnings, victims are instructed to deposit or cash the check, and then send the equivalent amount of money to an address in Canada.

In some cases, victims have reported receiving multiple letters and checks, as well as telephone solicitations from individuals claiming to represent the International Lottery Sweepstakes.

The Brita Products Company has no connection to the Canadian lottery and is in no way involved with any promotion resembling this scam.

The company is making every attempt to alert consumers, and has notified law enforcement agencies in an effort to identify the perpetrators as quickly as possible.

Counterfeit Lottery Check Scam Leave Elderly Victim Broke

06/23/04 - Wisconsin - Telemarketing scammers - "telescammers," I call them - use their professional, friendly voices, and their cold-blooded greed, to get to other people's money.

They are so convincing that Mr. S., who is 76 and handicapped, left his cozy home just to withdraw money from his savings account and forward it to those telescammers. (Mr. S no longer has a savings account.)

For the past six months, Mr. S. has received more than 120 telescammer calls. Each 15- to 20-minute call was designed to "feel Mr. S. out," to see whether he qualified to be their next victim and to set him up to fall into their trap - and it worked.

Mr. S received a telephone call March 1 from "Mr. Drake," who was happy to inform him that he had just won the grand prize of $2.8 million.

Mr. S. wanted to believe it, but told Mr. Drake that he had received many similar calls in the past. This time Mr. S. needed proof.

He also told Mr. Drake that the other callers requested money "up front" to claim the big prize. He adamantly told Mr. Drake not to bother him again if it was going to cost him to win the $2.8 million - Mr. S. was not sending anyone a dime.

Mr. Drake understood completely. In fact, he told Mr. S. that it sounded as though he had been called by phony telecommunicators.

Mr. Drake told Mr. S. that he had to be careful not to believe everyone who called him. He assured Mr. S. that his winning the $2.8 million was "for real" and that he would not have to send one dime.

He told Mr. S. that he would immediately send out a confirmation letter, plus the necessary papers for Mr. S. to sign to release the prize money.

Mr. S. received his confirmation packet March 10 - six pages from First Federated Holdings Ltd., North American Prize Award Division, a Division of Eurotrust Corp., London-Bern-Toronto.

The official-looking letter, notarized by Mark Bailey of British Columbia, stated: "The money is in a special insured account, and preparations need to be made for the immediate disbursement thereof, as the funds must begin to be disbursed by April 4, 2004, or a different prizewinner must be awarded ... as your account has been assigned to me, David King, I am the only person authorized to speak with you about these matters ... allow me to extend my best wishes. I take great pleasure in being allowed to award this money to you."

The instructions included an untraceable phone number that Mr. S. was to call immediately upon receiving the package, so "We know it arrived safely ... then we will assist you in completing the papers."

Mr. S. called the number and spoke to "King," who was elated that the papers arrived safely and quickly. After helping Mr. S. complete the six phony pages, King told Mr. S. that $7,500 was required for money transfer and lawyer fees.

Mr. S. told King that he did not have $7,500. King "understood," and said he would make an exception. He told Mr. S to release a $9,761.34 check from his $2.8 million.

King would send the check immediately, he said, and then Mr. S. should deposit the check and forward the $7,500 for money-transfer fees. King reminded Mr. S. that the money was being deducted from his $2.8 million prize money.

Mr. S. received a certified check March 15 for $9,761.34. He deposited the check and withdrew $7,500, but decided it would be safer to send the money in three installments.

On March 18, Mr. S. sent a $2,500 money order via Western Union to an address in British Columbia.

Mr. S. sent another $2,500 money order March 19 from the same Western Union. The workers there became alarmed when they saw that second large money transmission, so they asked him whether everything was OK. Mr. S. replied that his son needed the money, but decided to send the third $2,500 money order from a different Western Union.

On March 20, Mr. S. learned that the official-looking certified check for $9,761.34 was a fake. He also found out that he now owes his bank the $7,500 that he withdrew off the check.

Nigerian Counterfeit Check Lottery Scam

12/27/04 - Texas - The Sheriff's Department is the last place Thomas McRee, 77, expected to be Monday morning after Christmas. He was there to sort out the mess that has cost him more than all of his life savings.

It all began last month with a letter to his wife, Barbara, from an Australian lottery company. It said they were the lucky winners of the Oz 6/45 lottery. Their share of the winnings: $800,000.

Oz sent the McRees a check for more than $14,000 and then asked the couple to send almost that full amount back to cover insurance, taxes, and customs fees. They were given two days to reply.

The McRees sent three separate Money Grams to the company, but they found out on Christmas Eve that the check the company sent them was no good.

"I thought there was something fishy about it, but all along, I thought I was using their money they'd sent," Thomas said. "It never once occurred, 'cause the check looked official and the bank accepted it."

Thomas met with the Upshur County Sheriff, who says, unfortunately, it will be hard to track down the scam artists.

"The chances are slim anytime because it's in another country," Anthony Betterton said. "And by the time you get law enforcement involved, the company doesn't exist, it's a vacant building, they've already moved, and moved onto bigger and better things."

"I'm not happy about it," Thomas said. "It's not a really good Christmas present."

Fearing his wife could go to jail for unknowingly writing a hot check, Thomas went to his bank to ask VP Jerry Richardson for more time to raise the money.

Richardson says the bank won't take any action until after the holidays, when he can call the lottery company to find out more information.

Meanwhile, the McRees will ask their family and friends to help them come up with $14,000.

Advance Fee to Western Union Creates Victim Loss by Lottery Winner for Fake Check at Bank

By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer

01/05 - Boston, MA - What a Brockton woman thought was a $7 million lottery windfall wound up costing her more than $9,000 after she fell victim to one of the latest lottery scams to hit the area.

The 32-year-old woman was told via e-mail by a Toronto, Canada, outfit that she had won $7 million — and then was sent a $9,500 check to cash.

But there was a hitch. Before the winnings could be sent, she had to send a MoneyGram for $9,500 for "processing fees" to the company so a special account could be set up for her. She cashed the $9,500 check last month at her local bank, sent out the MoneyGram and waited for word.

It came from her bank: The $9,500 check from the Toronto company was phony. The money she was given by the bank when she "cashed" the check would be taken out of her account.

It was one of a handful of lottery scams police throughout the region say they see each year and one of the first luring victims via e-mail.

"People are so thrilled at the thought that they will have this money, they don't want to believe it's not true," Brockton Lt. William Conlon, chief of detectives, said. "If it looks too good to be true, it is."

Lottery scams represented 2 percent of all Internet fraud cases in the first six months of last year, according to the National Fraud Information Center, a group founded by the National Consumer's League.

Most of the complaints investigated locally involve lottery scams headquartered in Canada, with the elderly often falling victim.

Taunton police Detective Dennis Smith said he investigates about two lottery scam cases a year in which con artists call potential victims by phone with the "news" they won a jackpot.

The scenario is always the same: the "winner" must send cash via Western Union or other means to a location in Canada for an account to be set up to put the winnings in.

"It is always progressive. At first it's $1,000. If they get $1,000 from you, they tell you there is one more thing that needs to be done. It is another $1,500 that needs to be sent.

They keep upping it. They just keep going and drain you. They keep going until you get tired or you run out of money," Smith said.

Smith said he hasn't seen anyone using e-mail yet in the lottery scam.

But it may just be a matter of time, said Raynham Deputy Police Chief Louis J. Pacheco.

"Every conceivable scam that can be done in person can be done 10,000 more on the Internet," Pacheco said. "Nothing on the Internet is what it seems."

In the Brockton case, a woman was sent an e-mail, sprinkled with grammatical errors, from a group identifying itself as the "Depository Financial Services" in Toronto. The e-mail told her she won $7 million and would be getting a check for $9,500, Conlon said.

But she needed to send, by a MoneyGgram, the same amount to the company so they could open a "credit line" for her, he said. MoneyGram is an international money-transfer service.

The e-mail, with its grammatical errors, should have given the woman a hint something was amiss, he said.

"We will equally opened a credit line with your bank to enable them receive and accept the above mentioned sum into your bank account with bank," the e-mail read.

The e-mail said she had to forward a $9,500 "clearance fee" to the company before the winnings could be sent out, he said.

"Payment must be made through Western Union transfer or Moneygram," the e-mail read.

The woman got the $9,500 check from the company, cashed it at her local bank then went to Wal-Mart in Avon to send out the cash to the Canada company, Conlon said.

She wound up paying $9,762.85 — the amount for the "fee" plus other fees to send the money — with hopes of getting the $7 million payout, Conlon said.

What she got was a letter from her bank, telling her the check from the company was no good, Conlon said.

She was told she was responsible for the money she received. That meant the money would be taken from her own account.

"You need to do some double checking to make sure these things are true," Conlon said. "If you really thought about it, if you stepped back, you would know it was phony."

Smith said he tracked one of the lottery scam operations to Canada about 11/2 years ago and talked to the man who picked up the cash from a Western Union sent by a Taunton woman.

"He was nothing but a runner. He was approached in a coffee shop in Canada and offered $100 to pick up the money," Smith said. "It is just a fly-by-night boiler room operation."