Thursday, July 14, 2005

Beware: lottery scams widespread

By BARRY BURLESON
Editor

One letter to a Bank of Holly Springs customer from a “Lottery Resources Management Center” in Halifax, Nova Scotia, promises a payout of $250,830.

A bogus check for $5,125 is enclosed.

It encourages the recipient to call an account manager quickly who will assist in finalizing the payment process.

“Anytime you have to send money to get sweepstakes money, it’s not real,” said Charles King, a vice president at the bank.

Another letter from Loteria Primitiva in Madrid, Spain, proclaims a local resident as a lottery winner and says he has been approved for $615,810.

A payment processing form included asks for name, address, date of birth, bank name, bank account number, bank routing number and more.

“We had three different letters brought in to us in a week with counterfeit checks attached,” King said. “A common thread is that they all originate outside of the United States. They want to collect as much personal information as they can.”

Some scam artists even use a real and recognized bank name on their letterhead illegally.

“It’s here (in small communities),” King said. “It’s something that we see as a real issue for us. They target legitimate customers.”

As reported in last week’s newspaper by the Holly Springs Police Department, the scam artists are approaching potential victims in many ways – including through the mail, via the Internet, telephone, on the street or by a knock on the door.

At least five such e-mails were received at The South Reporter’s e-mail address last week. All were “winning notifications” of lotteries, seeking info like a cell phone number and personal information. One said it is “100 percent risk free for I will educate you on the steps to follow as soon as you indicate your interest.”

King warns Marshall Countians to not get caught in the web of such illegal activity. He said it’s a variation of the old “pigeon drop scam.”

“This is fraudulent activity,” he said. “People think they’re going to get something for nothing, and it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, human greed tempts us.”

He urges anyone who receives such letters or e-mails from scam artists to call the authorities – the police department or sheriff’s department.

The Holly Springs Police Department provides these tips to avoid scams:

  • If the situation seems unusual or if you feel uncomfortable, just walk away.
  • Financial institutions request that customers read and sign a form when they wish to withdraw a large sum of cash. The form alerts consumers to these scams and encourages them to talk to a bank or law enforcement officer if these conditions are present. This is not an attempt to keep your money or control how it is spent – it is to protect you from fraud.
  • Trust only people you know. Do not trust someone because he or she has a friendly voice or appears to be an authoritative figure. Swindlers usually are friendly and have honest faces and pleasant personalities. That is how they gain your trust and steal your money.
  • Talk to a law enforcement officer or your banker before withdrawing large sums of money at someone else’s request.

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