Officials Warn of Lottery Check Scam - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/14/06

Officials Warn of Lottery Check Scam

Ever get a check in the mail, claiming you won a lottery, and promising money if you cash it? Chances are, it's a fake. You hope it's for real. It's human nature. But how do you win a lottery you didn't even enter? It's a question a lot of people are asking themselves, but for some reason, the Better Business Bureau says people keep falling for the scam.

"Obviously, it seemed a little bit too good to be true," said Savannahian Angela Halla of a letter and check she got. The red flags were all there: European Lottery, a Canadian phone number, and a check you need to cash and send the money back as an advance for the rest of your prize.

"There's part of you that wants it to be real," she said.

Despite her 10-year-old son's excitement--"He of course thought we won the lottery, so he was thrilled. Spent it in five minutes."--Halla's common sense set in. "I hadn't entered anything to win $95,000, that was the biggest tip-off."

Halla saw a number on the letter and made the call. She actually talked to the people who came up with this scam. They told her to cash the enclosed check at the bank. It looked real, so she made a copy of it. When you take a closer look at the copied check, there is no void on it. Halla knew there was a problem.

"Normally, a copied check will say void," she told us. "This one did not."

"I haven't seen this particular one," said Ross Howard with the Better Business Bureau's Savannah office. But he has seen plenty of other lotto check scams. "We have seen more lottery offerings since the beginning of the year than ever before."

His office gets dozens a week. He's heard of people cashing or depositing these phony checks. "The check you put in that account is no good, and your money is gone, in their pocket," he explained. "If you receive these things, throw it away. It's a scam."

Next time, Halla will. She prays other people do the same. "Some people may go ahead and cash it, not knowing they are committing a criminal act," she said. "It's alarming."

And there could be even more. Halla says she contacted Bank of America who told her the account on the check is legitimate, but the company has nothing to do with European Lottery. So the account number could have been stolen, which means if she had cashed the check, she could have been in big trouble.

The Better Business Bureau is forwarding the information to the Federal Trade Commission, and Phone Busters, the Canadian version of the BBB.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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