Chicago, IL, August 13, 2009 – The Better Business Bureau is issuing an alert cautioning consumers and businesses about fraudulent cross-border lottery notifications that involve counterfeit checks. Consumers across the country are contacting Better Business Bureaus throughout the U.S. to ask about the legitimacy of notices they received by mail and spam e-mail announcing that they have won substantial sums of money in a foreign lottery.
Consumers may be given a telephone number to call and then instructed to cash certified checks in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $9,000 in order to collect their "entire award package." They are then instructed to wire the money or send their own check back to the lottery company to cover fees or taxes.
Judy Redden of Chicago wired $3,870 thru Western Union after receiving a letter that stated she had won 2.8 million dollars from the Australian Lottery. The charges associated with receiving the earnings were for fees for the money to come to the USA: “I had to pay $250 to deliver the check, then $720 for the insurance, then $2,900 for more insurance, then $3,000 for a certificate. I told the agent I didn't have any more money and I was not going to send him $3,000 and I wanted a refund. Have not heard from the agent and no refund.” Redden’s agent’s name was Peter Macourt who operates from 104 Victoria Rd. in London, England, with the phone number of 011-44-799-099-7582.
"While most of these lottery notification letters deservedly end up in the trash, there appears to be an increase in the number of people who are taking them seriously, said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "People need to realize the danger in responding to unofficial lottery-related solicitations. If they cash the counterfeit checks, they can end up liable for any funds they spend while waiting for the funds to clear.”
The BBB cautions consumers not to allow enticing dollar signs to obstruct common sense. If you are being directed to wire money, send a check, provide access to your bank account or credit card numbers or forward personal financial information in order to claim your winnings, contact your BBB. This is an attempt to steal your money or identity, by a person masquerading as a lottery official.
“Even if no money is transferred to these organizations, simply providing an ID or bank account details to an unknown party makes consumers vulnerable to identity theft and fraudulent use of their bank account," Bernas added.
If you have won a legitimate, legal lottery, you do not have to pay taxes, custom fees, shipping or handling or any other fee before receiving your winnings. In addition, it is illegal to participate in a foreign lottery through U.S. mail.
To learn more about foreign lottery scams and check scams go to www.bbb.org.