Marjorie Shamgochian is an elderly widow who received a phone call telling her that she had won a multimillion dollar lottery in the United Kingdom that she had never entered. Regular readers of Scamicide know by now that you do not win lotteries that you do not enter and that it is illegal to enter foreign lotteries, but Mrs. Shamgochian was blinded by her apparent good fortune. In order to claim her prize, she was told that she first had to pay taxes and legal fees so she wired a total of $759,376 from her bank accounts at Wells Fargo and Bank of America to the scammers overseas before she realized that she had been scammed. But Marjorie’s story doesn’t end there. She sued both of her banks arguing that they were negligent in wiring the money on her behalf and that they should have identified on their own that this was a scam. Ultimately, the courts ruled against Mrs. Shamgochian and said that the banks had no duty to monitor her banking for fraud. The lesson is that if you are looking for a helping hand, the best place to find it is at the end of your own arm.
It is hard enough to win a legitimate lottery that you have entered, but it is impossible to win one that you have not entered. Also legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay fees in order to claim your prize. You should also remember that playing foreign lotteries from the United States is illegal. Also, although income taxes are due on lottery winnings, those taxes are either deducted by the lottery sponsor from your prize before you receive the balance or you are required to pay the taxes directly to the IRS. Lottery sponsors never collect income taxes from lottery winnings on behalf of the IRS. As for whether banks and other institutions should be on the lookout for fraud and scams of their customers, particularly elderly customers, that is an interesting question, but for the moment it appears that we all need to rely on ourselves in avoiding scams.