The Gila County Attorney’s office has issued a consumer warning for fraudulent lottery scams, the latest phishing scheme in the district.
Scams include letters claiming to come from lotteries that lure victims into the scams by stating they are due a large lottery prize, but must first send personal information.
A general pattern among the frauds includes the victim receiving an award confirmation through fax or mail that says they have won a large amount of money in a drawing.
Due to a clerical error or other mix-up, the winner is asked to keep the prize confidential until the winnings are released to them.
Most times, there is a deadline to claim the money. Once the transfer process begins, the victim is informed of various delays requiring the payment of transfer fees, taxes, anti-terror fees, insurance fees, claims agent fees, and other costs that must be paid before the prize can be collected.
Several victims have reported the International Lottery Sweepstakes scheme. This scam asks for personal information such as Social Security numbers, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates and ATM pin codes to ensure the lottery program can access the correct account to deposit the lottery winnings.
Once the fraudsters trick the victim into revealing personal and financial information, they steal the victim’s identity.
Typically, identity thefts use someone’s personal data to empty a victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on credit cards, apply for new cards, file fraudulent tax returns and commit crimes. It can take years to clean up a stolen identity and credit record.
County Attorney Daisy Flores advises asking the following questions to determine if it is a scam.
• Did you buy a ticket? If not, then you have not won.
• Are they asking for money? If yes, no genuine lottery would ask that.
• Do they want to see a passport, driver’s license or bank details? If yes, it is an attempt to steal your identity or clear your bank account.
• What’s their e-mail address? It could be a free account, which is difficult to trace and easy to close down.
• Is their bad grammar or white-out spaces?
• Does the letter have a return address? If not, disregard it.
To help put a stop to schemes, contact the Federal Trade Commission, which works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices.
The Federal Trade Commission can be reached at (877) FTC-HELP or www.ftc.gov.