Beware of lottery wins you never entered, AGs warn

Legal News Line Jan. 17, 2007, 11:51am


DES MOINES - Iowa's Tom Miller is the latest state attorney general in recent weeks to swing the sword at his state's so-called "lottery scammers." Miller and Iowa Lottery CEO Ed Stanek said today that they have received "many complaints" recently from Iowans claiming to have received solicitations by post or e-mail from fake lottery operators telling them they have won a cash prize. Miller joins the attorneys-general of New Mexico, Washington and New Jersey in targeting such schemes in the past month. In the Iowa scam, lottery "winners" are asked to wire the lottery operator between $2,900 and $4,500 upfront to cover "taxes and handling fees." Some also receive a counterfeit cashier's check for a portion of their supposed winnings. "In some cases, fake lotteries use the logos and trademarked names of legitimate games, including the Iowa Lottery's Power Ball game," Miller said. "Scam artists have even faked lottery officials' signatures." The odds of winning the average multi-state Power Ball lottery are over 10 million to one. Last week incoming New Mexico AG Gary King warned residents in the southern part of the state about a scheme there involving telephone solicitations from a person claiming to represent sweepstakes operator Publishers Clearing House. King warned that such scams often target the elderly and those who speak little or no English. Washington state AG Rob McKenna also recently warned consumers against cashing bogus checks bearing forged logos of lottery operator "Mega Millions." The checks will bounce but the depositor's personal information and bank routing number is sent to the fraudulent organization, McKenna warned. And New Jersey's AG office this week reported a similar ruse to the Iowa "lottery scam," where bogus agents called "lottery winners" asking them to pay an advance fee to collect winnings of $50,000. The average fee in the New Jersey scam is around $2,650. But the solution to such scams may not necessarily lie in the legal powers of the state. Amongst the most common pieces of advice offered to consumers by AGs' offices for avoiding such scams is the following in a recent Miller press release: "Do not believe you have won a prize in a lottery in which you never participated."

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