Is this "lottery" letter a fraud?
Authored By: Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota-Duluth
A legal question and answer column for seniors.
DEAR SENIORS LEGAL LINE:
I opened my mail today and was happy to find a letter stating that I will receive a certified check for a total of $86,000 from a Canadian lottery program. The letter tells me to call their agent in Ontario to claim my prize. If I do not call by August 15, 2006, it will become automatically null and void.
I could really use the money, but my friends are telling me it sounds too good to be true. Is this letter a fraud?
It definitely sounds like fraud to me. In fact, our office has received calls in the past about these types of scams. Usually, the lottery is based in Canada and they are using either the telephone or direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to take the bait.
Often what happens is they will send you a fake check and want you to wire money back to them or give them authorization to access your bank account. There are many variations on the fake check scams. There is no legitimate reason for someone who is going to give you money to ask you to wire money back. If you have to pay for a prize it is likely a scam. If you receive a fake check, do not deposit it. Instead, report it to the U.S. Postal Inspector. You may also wish to report it to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office Consumer Division, and/or the Federal Trade Commission. They are interested in keeping track of these types of scams.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the nation’s consumer protection agency, has issued these words of caution to consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery:
- It is against federal law to play a foreign lottery through the mail or over the telephone.
- If you respond to them your name will be placed on “sucker” lists which fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.
- Do not give out your credit card or bank account numbers. If you respond to a scam they will often ask for these during the sales pitch and can be quite persuasive.
- The FTC states that the bottom line is to ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. They recommend that consumers give the lottery material to your local Postmaster.
For more information about lottery scams and other scams, you may wish to contact the FTC at their toll-free number of 1-877-382-4357, or visit their website at www.ftc.gov. You can reach the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office at their toll-free number of 1-800-657-3787, or visit their website at www.ag.state.mn.us.
Your friends gave you good advice. That old adage “If it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t,” is good advice in regards to foreign lotteries.
This column is written by the Senior Citizens’ Law Project. It is not meant to give complete answers to individual questions. If you are 60 years of age or older and live within the Minnesota Arrowhead Region, you may contact us for legal help or questions by writing to: Senior Citizens’ Law Project, Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota, 302 Ordean Bldg., Duluth, MN 55802. Please include a phone number and return address.