Scam of the day – September 3, 2017 – Western Union lottery email scam

People are reporting receiving the email copied below informing them that they are one of seven people who have won a huge cash prize through a non-existent program described as the United Nations Poverty Alleviation Program. The idea behind this scam is simple and one that has been used many times previously. You are told, as with the Nigerian letter scam or phony lottery scams, that you have won or inherited a large amount of money. At first you are told that there are no fees involved, but as your communications with the scammer increase, you are asked time and time again for money under various guises, such as necessary fees or administrative costs.  Ultimately, you receive nothing.

As scam emails go, this one is not particularly good and has a myriad of indications that it is a scam.  It purports to come from Western Union, but even though it carries a legitimate looking Western Union logo, the email address is that of someone whose email account has been hacked and made a part of a botnet to send out massive amounts of these emails.  In addition, the email is directed to “Dear Beneficiary” rather than your real name.  As with many other scams that may originate in foreign countries, the grammar is quite poor.

TIPS

It is hard to win a contest or lottery you enter.  It is impossible to win one that you have never entered.  Whenever you receive such an email, you should be immediately skeptical.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate lottery will ever ask you for fees or administrative costs to claim your prize.  In addition, while income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, no lottery collects them from you.  They either deduct taxes from your prize or leave it to you to pay the taxes to the IRS.

 

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Scam of the day – July 28, 2017 – FTC refunding money to vacation scam victims

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is mailing checks to the victims of a vacation travel scam operated by VGC Corp of America which did business under a number of names including All Dreams Vacations and All Dreams Travel.  After a complaint was filed by the FTC against VGC, it settled the claims.  Included in the settlement is a refund to victimized consumers.

The scam started with a telephone call offering a vacation package worth thousands of dollars if the person receiving the call was able to answer a simple trivia question.  Once the victim had won the “free” trip, he or she was told he or she had to pay $400 in taxes or fees.  Although the victims made these payments, they never received the promised vacation package.

TIPS

There are many similar type of vacation scams, but if you think that you may have been a victim of this particular scam which was being done in 2011 (it takes a long time for these cases to be completed) you can go to the top of this page to the tab marked “FTC Scam Refunds” for more information about obtaining a refund of the money you lost.

For everyone else this is a cautionary tale that reminds us that you never have to pay fees or taxes to claim a prize you have won in a legitimate lottery or contest.  Taxes are either deducted from the prize or you are responsible for them on your own.  The contest or lottery sponsor never collects taxes and you should never have to pay a fee in order to collect your prize from a legitimate lottery or contest.

Scam of the day – June 2, 2017 – Trump gift card scam

It is hard to win any lottery. It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered and yet scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists have found that it is extremely lucrative to scam people by convincing them that they have won various lotteries.   Reproduced below is a unique lottery scam using President Trump as the hook.

As with many effective scams, the pitch of the scammer seems legitimate. Income taxes are due on lottery winnings, but with legitimate lotteries they are either deducted from the lottery winnings before you receive your prize or you are responsible for paying the taxes directly to the IRS. No legitimate lottery collects taxes on behalf of the IRS from lottery winners.  Other times, the scammer tell the “winners” that in order to collect their prizes, they need to pay administrative fees. No legitimate lottery requires you to pay administrative fees in order to claim your prize.   Additionally, some phony lotteries ask for personal information which is then used for purposes of identity theft.

This particular phony lottery scam is filled with indications that it is not legitimate.  It is sent by email, but not addressed to you personally in any salutation.  It also proclaims “congratulation” rather than “congratulations.”  Finally, it is being circulated now although it refers to the “autumn competition.”

TIPS

As I have often told you, it is difficult to win a lottery you have entered.  It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  You should always be skeptical about being told that you have won a lottery you never entered.    In regard to taxes, while it is true that income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, legal lotteries never collect tax money from winners.  They either deduct the taxes from the winnings or leave it up to the winners to pay their taxes directly to the IRS.  You also should never pay a fee to collect a legal lottery prize and you certainly should never click on links unless you have confirmed that the communication is legitimate in order to avoid downloading malware.

Scam of the day – February 27, 2017 – FTC settles phony prize scam charges

The Federal Trade Commission has closed down a mass mailing phony prize scam and settled charges with one of the perpetrators of the scam, Ian Gamberg, while continuing to pursue charges against other defendants involved in the scam.

Hundreds of thousands of primarily elderly people received mailings informing them that they had won a prize in a contest they had not even entered.  According to the mailers, “… this is NOT a preliminary or qualification letter of cash prize status; YOU HAVE WON A CASH PRIZE!” The notices contained logos, stamps and seals that made the letters look legitimate.  The people receiving the letters were prompted to fill out a form with personal information and return the form to a Post Office Box in the Netherlands along with a payment of $25 as a charge to claim their prize.

Of course, there was no prize and to make matters worse, the personal information of the victims of the scam was sold to other scammers who sent similar prize scam letters to the victims who often paid the amounts requested multiple times.

This particular scam was brought down by joint efforts of consumer protection and law enforcement agencies in a number of countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Spain, the UK and the United States.

TIPS

It is hard to win a lottery or contest and it is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  That should be the first indication when you receive such a letter that it is a scam.

In addition, no legitimate lottery or contest requires you to make a payment to obtain your prize.   Although the request for payment under the guise of the payment being for income taxes, processing fees or shipping and handling charges may seem legitimate, they are not.  While income taxes are due on lottery and contest winnings, no sponsor of a lottery or contest collects taxes from winners.  The sponsors of legitimate contests and lotteries either deduct taxes from the winnings or pay the entire prize and leave the payment of taxes to the winners to do on their own.

Even if the contest or lottery appears to have been sponsored by a well-known company with which you are familiar, if the contest or lottery requires you to make a payment to obtain your prize, it is a scam. Scammers often use the names and easily counterfeited logos of legitimate companies to make their scams look genuine.

Scam of the day – September 27, 2016 – Another phony email lottery scam

I often write about phony lottery scams because year after year they are among the most common and effective scams and with good reason.  Often blinded by their greed, many people fall for these scams and end up paying thousands of dollars to scammers and  end up receiving nothing in return.  Generally, there are two ways that phony lotteries work.  Either you are told that in order to claim your prize, you must pay administrative fees or income taxes to the lottery sponsor.  In both cases, victims pay money to the phony lottery sponsors and never see a dime.  Here is a copy of a recent lottery scam email I received.  It purports to be from the International Monetary Fund, an international financial organization which works under the United Nations and which does not ever offer lotteries.  This is a poorly constructed phishing email that contains numerous instances of poor grammar and spelling and makes no sense whatsoever.  The email addresses contained within the email may well be those of innocent people whose emails have been hacked.  We can’t tell from the email, if the email addresses are those of the scammers or merely email addresses they control through a botnet.

“$5,000 PAYMENT”
Wann Dienstag, 27 September 2016
12:30 PM bis 01:30 PM
(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time – Dublin/Edinburgh/Lissabon/London
Mail Dear Email ID Owner, USD $5,000 PAYMENT WE SENT TODAY TO PICK UP. The IMF is compensating all the email addresses,was fund as one of the ward win Victims and your mail address with your name is listed among one of the approved to pay sum of US$2.5 million. We have concluded to effect your own payment through Western Union Money Transfer for easy pick up those fund in good condition,$5,000 twice daily until the total sum of US$2.5 million is completely transferred to you. Now: we need your information where we will be sending the funds as following below: (1)Your Full name…: (2)Your Phone number:… (3)Your Country:… (4)Your Age:… (5)Your private E-Mail..: For urgent enquiry call Tel; +229 66024650 Mr.Steven Moses for the payment E-mail 🙁wesunion.wu101@gmail.com ) Call Steve immediately you get this mail to enable him speed up your payment immediately to released US$5000 dollar MTCN to you for picking up the payment today ok Best Rgards, Mrs.Esther Richardson. Private e-mail: eestherichardson@hotmail.com IMF MANAGEMENT.

 

TIPS

As I have often told you, it is difficult to win a lottery you have entered.  It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  You should always be skeptical when told that you have won a lottery you never entered.    It is also important to remember that it is illegal to play foreign lotteries unless you are present in the other country.  While it is true that income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, legal lotteries never collect tax money from winners.  They either deduct the taxes from the winnings or leave it up to the winners to pay their taxes directly to the IRS.  As for administrative fees, you never pay a fee to collect a legal lottery prize.

Scam of the day – November 9, 2015 – New Facebook scam

It is not surprising that Facebook has been a favorite medium for scammers.  Its very popularity and the fact that on Facebook you are communicating with your friends is reason enough for scammers to use Facebook as a platform for scams.  The latest Facebook related scam starts with a private message  that appears to come from one of your friends telling you that he or she has won a huge amount of money and that you too are part of a group that has won this prize.  In the version currently circulating the source of the funds is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Grant.  There is no organization entitle the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Grant, however the Catalog of  Federal Domestic Assistance is a  real website  maintained by the federal government that provides information about a wide array of governmental assistance programs.  In the private message sent by the scammer, the intended victim is told that in order to claim his or her share of the prize, they must wire money to pay for taxes and clearance fees.

Of course, the entire thing is a scam, so once the victim has wired the money, he or she never receives any prize.  The private message, which appears to come from a friend is actually coming from the Facebook account of a friend whose Facebook account was hacked.

TIPS

It is hard to win any lottery or contest.  It is impossible to win one that you have never entered.  Facebook accounts and email accounts are relatively easy for a skilled cybercriminal to hack so whenever you receive an email or message urging you to click on a link, provide personal information or, as in this scam, send money, you should always be skeptical and confirm that the communication is legitimate before responding. You should be particularly skeptical of  any request to wire money or provide a cash card number because once funds have been transferred in this fashion, they are impossible to retrieve.

It also is important to remember that no legitimate lottery requires that you pay them fees to claim your prize or pay them the taxes due on the winnings.  Legitimate lotteries either deduct the income taxes from your prize or they pay you the entire amount of the prize and you are responsible for paying the taxes on the winnings to the IRS on your regular 1040.

Scam of the day – September 2, 2015 – Microsoft lottery scam

Today’s Scam of the day again comes from my own email although I am sure many of you have received the same email.  It appearsto inform me that I have won a huge prize in a lottery sponsored by Microsoft.  Lottery scams are among the most prevalent scams year after year and with good reason.  People, often blinded by their greed, fall for these scams and end up paying thousands of dollars to scammers and receive nothing in return.  Generally, there are two ways that phony lotteries work.  Either you are told that in order to claim your prize, you must pay administrative fees or income taxes to the lottery sponsor.  In both cases, victims pay money to the phony lottery sponsors and never see a dime.  Here is a copy of the email that I received.

“Dear Cash Winner,

Your e-mail address was selected and confirmed by our co-sponsor Microsoft International, through their latest internet software. You have therefore been approved by Microsoft® Corporation UK the sum of £3.6 Million POUNDS (THREE MILLION, SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS). These funds are in cash, Credited to a valid cashier’s check, with a winning Reg. No. MCIMJ: 36925/0751 and payment ID mast/isd/04-15. Be informed that your prize has been insured and ready for pay out to you. You are to contact your assigned claims officer below with your required information’s:

Name: Sergey Alexandro
E-mail: sergey_alexandro77@hotmail.com
Claims Verification Department.
Microsoft® Liaison Office”

TIPS

The first tip off that this is a phony lottery is that the email address sending me the email is that of an innocent individual whose email was hacked and made part of a botnet to send out such phony lottery emails.  The email address shows no relationship to either Microsoft or any lottery.  The second thing to remember is that it is difficult to win a lottery you enter.  It is impossible to win one that you never even entered.  Finally, in regards to administrative fees, no legitimate lottery will ask you to pay for administrative fees in order to collect your prize and while it is true that income taxes are due on lottery winnings, those taxes are either deducted from your winnings and paid directly by the lottery sponsor on your behalf to the IRS or the entire winnings are paid to you and it is your responsibility to pay the income taxes to the IRS.  No legitimate lottery collects income taxes on behalf of the IRS.

Scam of the day – August 10, 2015 – BMW lottery scam

Phony lotteries are a common type of scam for one big reason.  They work.  Unfortunately, many people become convinced that they have won a lottery that they never even entered and end up paying money to the scammers under the guise of required taxes or administrative fees in order to claim a prize that never comes.  Here is a copy of an email presently being circulated about a lottery in which the prize is a new BMW automobile.

“Dear Winner,

This is to inform you that you have been selected for a prize
of a brand new 2015 Model BMW 7 Series Car and a Check of $1,500,000.00 USD from
the international balloting programs held on the 28th of June 2015 in the UNITED
STATE OF AMERICA.

Description of prize vehicle; Model: 760Li Color (exterior): Metallic Silver Mileage: 5 Transmission: Automatic 6  Speed

Options: Cold weather package, premium package, fold down rear seats w/ski bag, am fm stereo with single in dash compact disc player.

The selection process was carried out through random selection in our computerized email selection system (ESS) from a database of over 230,000 email addresses drawn from all the continents of the world which you were selected.

The BMW Lottery is approved by the British Gaming Board and also Licensed by the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR). To begin the processing of your prize you are to contact our fiduciary claims department for more information as regards procedures to the claim of your prize.

Name: Mr.
Anderson Lucas
Email: BLOCKED OUT

Contact him by providing him with your secrete pin code Number BMW:2581346003/29.

You are also advised to provide him with the under listed information as soon as possible:

1. Name In Full:
2. Residential Address:
3. Nationality:
4. Age:
5. Sex:
6.Occupation:
7. Direct Telephone Number:
8. Present Country:
9. Email address:
10. Pin code Number BMW: 2581346003/29

Please provide him with the above listed details as soon as possible.

Congratulations once more from all our staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.

Ms Becky Gregg
THE DIRECTOR PROMOTIONS
BMW LOTTERY DEPARTMENT
UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA.”

TIPS

The salutation of “Dear Winner” instead of being directed to the recipient of the email by name is an initial tip off that this is a scam.  Also, there is no BMW Lottery Department.  As difficult as it is to win a lottery you have entered, it is impossible to win one that you never even entered.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate lottery requires you to pay them anything to claim your prize and as for income taxes, although income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, the taxes are either deducted from the prize or the prize winner is responsible for paying the taxes on his or her own to the IRS.  Legitimate lotteries never collect tax payments.

Scam of the day – May 27, 2015 – FTC stops international lottery scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has obtained an injunction stopping an international sweepstakes scam based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida that scammed more than 28 million dollars from unwary victims around the world in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and other countries.  The scam begins with the victim receiving a personalized letter that informs the targeted victim that he or she has won a lottery guaranteed prize of around 2 million dollars.  However, the victim is told that in order to receive the prize, he or she would have to send in a fee of anywhere between 20 and 30 dollars.  To make the plea seem more urgent, the victims were told that they would forfeit their prize if they did not send in the fee within the next ten days.

Of course, as I have warned you about for years, there was no prize.  It is hard to win a lottery that you enter.  It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate lottery requires you to pay a fee to collect your prize.  In this case, the companies charged by the FTC, Mail Tree, Inc.; Michael McKay Co.; Spin Mail Inc.; MCP Marketing Activities LLC; Romeria Global LLC; Supreme Media LLC, Vernier Holdings Inc.; Awards Research Consultant LLC; Mailpro Americas Corp.; Masterpiece Marketing LLC; Priority Information Exchange and individuals, Matthew Pisoni, Marcus Pradel, John Leon and Victor Ramirez  in fine print on the back of the letters and in confusing language indicated that all they were really providing for the 20 or 30 dollar fee was a report about sweepstakes and lotteries available to the public.

TIPS

Lottery and sweepstakes scams continue to be successful money makers for scammers.  The best way to avoid a lottery scam is to remember that you don’t win lotteries and scams you don’t enter, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay a fee to collect your prize and no legitimate lottery requires you to pay them taxes due on your lottery winnings.  Although income taxes are due on lottery winnings, they are never collected by the sponsors of the lotteries.  The sponsor either deducts your taxes from your winnings or they give you the entire prize and you are responsible for the payment of the taxes.

Scam of the day – May 15, 2015 – Jamaica lottery conviction

Last week, following three days of deliberation a North Dakota jury convicted Sanjay Williams, of Montego Bay, Jamaica of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering charges related to the infamous Jamaican lottery scam by which many Americans, most elderly have been scammed out of money after being told that they have won the non-existent Jamaican lottery.  This particular case was four years in the making and started when an 86 year old North Dakota widow, Edna Schmeets lost her entire life’s savings of $300,000 to Jamaican scammers who telephoned her and told her that she had won a 19  million dollar Jamaican lottery, but that she needed to pay taxes and fees before she could claim her prize.  Sentencing of Williams has been delayed to give Mr. Williams time to consider cooperating with investigators about others involved in return for a lesser sentence.  Williams faces a maximum of forty years in prison

TIPS

As I have often told you, it is difficult to win a lottery you have entered.  It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  You should always be skeptical about being told that you have won a lottery you never entered.  It is also important to remember that it is illegal to play foreign lotteries unless you are present in the other country.  While it is true that income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, legal lotteries never collect tax money from winners.  They either deduct the taxes from the winnings or leave it up to the winners to pay their taxes directly to the IRS.  You also should never pay a fee to collect a legal lottery prize.