CHICAGO | Two women from Lansing and Palos Heights have lost a combined $172,000 to a scam where "winners" are told they are entitled to a large lottery prize even though they did not buy a ticket, said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Dart is warning residents of the rouse where scammers contact their victims — many of whom are senior citizens — via telephone calls, faxes, emails or letters telling them about their "jackpot." Some of the letters contain phony seals and certificates. The victims are told to collect the "prize" they must first send money either via Western Union or a cashier's check to a foreign address to pay for additional taxes and/or handling charges, the release states.
The scammers also may ask for more money, saying there was a mistake on the tax calculation.
In the past six months, a 74-year-old woman from Lansing lost $82,000 to the scam while an 80-year-old woman from Palos Heights lost $90,000, said a Cook County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.
Dart believes the scam is occurring nationwide, and the Sheriff's Department has received numerous complaints about it.
Dart reminds residents that no one can win a lottery prize without having entered the lottery by purchasing a ticket. There are no upfront fees to pay for a legitimate lottery win. Dart warns residents to be suspicious if contacted by a lottery agency located in another country. If contacted by phone, do not give any personal information such as credit card or bank account numbers, hang up immediately and contact police.
Anyone believing he or she may have been a victim of the scam can call his or her local police or the Cook County Sheriff's Department at (708) 865-4896.