LANSING | The Lansing Police Department has issued an alert to its residents about a lottery scam in the area.
Police said the scam involves a letter notifying recipients they are a "winner" in an international lottery. The letter states the "winners" are chosen from a pool of thousands of international citizens through a "computer ballot system" and they will share in a multimillion dollar jackpot.
The letter further states the money has already been placed in an account but there was a mix-up in some information and requests the "winner" to not publicize the award until their "claim" has been processed and they receive the money. The letter also mentions it is hoped the "winner" will use some of the winnings to take a chance in a $1.5 billion international lottery.
The letter instructs the recipient to contact an international number and provide their bank account information or an address so they can receive a certified check in the mail. Providing this information allows the scam to operate in one of two ways.
First, if a direct deposit is desired and account information is provided, the scammers can access the account and drain all the "winner's" personal funds.
Or if a check is to be mailed, the check will cover the "expenses" incurred in obtaining the "winnings." A contact number will be provided and the contact person will instruct the winner to cash the check and send a certain amount to them by Western Union or another wire service to cover the processing fees and invest in the larger lottery.
Once the money is sent by wire it is impossible to retrieve it and it is virtually impossible to determine who actually retrieved the cash. No winnings are sent out after the "fees" are paid and the check will come back as fraudulent, for which a bank may hold the cashing parties liable.
To avoid becoming a victim to this scam, remember the following:
* You cannot win a lottery you have not entered
* There is no such thing as an "international lottery"
* There is no such thing as an "email lottery"
* Legitimate lotteries do not make the winners cover any fees or expenses
* Lotteries do not contact the winners, the winner has to contact the lottery
* Never provide any personal or financial information to a company soliciting you which you did not initially contact yourself
* When in doubt, contact your local police before taking any action