A federal grand jury in Texas recently unsealed charges against eight men charged with operating a 250 million dollar phony sweepstakes scam and other fraudulent activities. 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. The defendants in the Texas case are alleged to have purchased a list of senior citizens to target with their lottery scam. The elderly are frequently targeted in lottery and sweepstakes scams. The targeted victims of the scam received mailed material informing them that they had won a sweepstakes they had never entered. Included in the package of material was a legitimate appearing check, usually in the amount of $8,000. The victims of the scam were advised to deposit the counterfeit check into their bank account and then withdraw between $5,000 and $7,000 in cash or money orders which they were then instructed to mail back in a pre-addressed stamped envelope provided in the package of materials. The victims of the scam were told that these payments were administrative fees required to collect their prize. Of course, the check sent by the scammers was counterfeit, but the cash or money orders sent by the victims from their bank accounts were real and once sent were lost forever.
Most lottery scams involve the victim being told that they need to pay taxes or administrative fees directly to the lottery sponsor, however no legitimate lottery requires you to do so.  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. Often, the victims are told to send the fees back to the scammer by prepaid gift cards or Green Dot MoneyPak cards. Prepaid cards are a favorite of scammers because they are the equivalent of sending cash. They are impossible to stop or trace. Again, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay administrative fees in order to claim your prize.
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 in regard to the Jamaica lottery and other foreign lotteries that it is illegal to play foreign lotteries except when you are actually present in the other country.
Receiving a check for more than what is owed you and being instructed to deposit the check and send the difference back to the person sending you the check is at the basis of many scams.
Whenever you receive a check, wait for your bank to tell you that the check has fully cleared before you consider the funds as actually being in your account. Don’t rely on provisional credit which is given after a few days, but which will be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with instructions to send back the rest. In this particular case, the scam may have seemed more believable because it could appear to the targeted victim that he or she was being apparently being paid from his or her winnings the amount necessary to cover the costs of administrative fees involved in claiming his or her prize, however, as I mentioned earlier, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay an administrative fee to claim your prize.
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