Lotteries You Can Never Win
“Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery!” If, without ever buying a ticket, you suddenly receive a letter, phone call, fax or e-mail claiming you are a winner of a lottery from any foreign country, don’t start spending your money yet. It’s just one more scam perpetrated by criminals intent on making a dishonest buck.
The letter comes with a cashier’s check that looks real. It has a company name, a bank name, routing number, and even a watermark. To claim the jackpot, it states, all you have to do is deposit the check, then send or wire back several thousand dollars, supposedly to cover fees or taxes. If you do send them the requested money, you will soon learn you’ve been scammed and have lost the amount you sent.
Try to cash the check and you will eventually find the company name is either fake or hijacked from a reputable business. The account number is real enough to keep the check circulating through the system, but it won’t match up with the named company or the supposed issuing financial institution. By the time the check bounces, the money has vanished. Worse, if you gave out your credit union account number to be paid “the prize” by wire transfer, you may find the hustlers have also invaded your account and stolen even more funds from you. If you gave them your credit card and Social Security numbers, they most likely will have run up charges or opened new accounts with your information.
Don’t respond to foreign lottery “notifications”; they’re all frauds. Federal law prohibits participation in foreign lotteries by phone or mail, so the only way a U.S. citizen can win one is to purchase a ticket while abroad. Plus, a legitimate lottery does not charge up-front fees. If you receive such a notification and have concerns, speak to a member service representative at any TFCU branch. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.