Arizonans warned of widespread foreign lottery scheme

lotteryArizonans are being warned about a widespread foreign lottery scheme. Victims continue to receive unsolicited contact informing them that they have won millions of dollars in another country’s lottery but that they need to pay a fee to claim their prize.

Victims send money, but never receive winnings.

The Office of the Arizona Attorney General and the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force recently concluded an operation to fight back against a Jamaican lottery scam. On February 5, 2015, law enforcement officers obtained a seizure warrant, which authorized the temporary detention of certain wire transfers going from Arizona to Jamaica. The task force established a call center to inform victims about the scam and return their money. During the 10-day operation, law enforcement returned more than $12,000 to 13 victims. Officers have not yet been able to contact all of the potential victims and the investigation continues.

The scammers targeted seniors and pressured them to send hundreds of dollars to claim their fake prizes. It is important to remember that once you wire money or pay with a prepaid card, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to recover your losses.

The Attorney General’s office offers these tips on avoiding foreign lottery scams:

•Do not wire money or send prepaid cards to someone you do not know, even if the scammers tell you to send money to someone in the United States.
•Do not provide your bank account information, credit card information or other personal identifying information to someone who you do not know. A scam artist can use the information provided to empty bank accounts, place unauthorized charges on a credit card or commit identity theft.
•Do not deposit a “prize” check or “winnings” check and wire funds back. The check is fake and you will owe the bank any fees associated with the fake check, as well as, any money you withdrew from that check.
•Do not believe an offer that requires you to pay upfront to collect a prize.
•Remember, it is illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or over the phone.