Consumers across the country are contacting Better Business Bureaus in the U.S. and Canada to ask about the legitimacy of notices they received by mail announcing that they have won substantial sums of money in a Canadian or other foreign lotteries. Consumers are instructed in the letters to call the listed telephone number for further instructions. They are then instructed to cash the included certified check, which range in amounts from $2,000 to $9,000, in order to collect their “entire award package.” After cashing the check they are further instructed to wire part of the money or a personal check back to the lottery company to cover fees and/or taxes. Further review of this scam revealed that valid U.S. business’s information, including banking information, are listed as the issuer of these counterfeit checks. These companies have advised the BBB that they are also a victim in this lottery scam.
The BBB in Huntsville, Alabama issued an alert regarding DE-LOTTO TRUST GROUP, INC. of Toronto, Canada for the DE-LOTTO AUSTRALIAN SWEEPSTAKES. The Bureau received inquiries from consumers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia and Ohio regarding this "sweepstakes." The notification letters state that the recipient is one of the declared winners of a drawing. A check, in varying amounts ranging from $3,500 to $8,950 and made payable to the recipient from an account for Apel Machine and Supply of Cullman, Alabama, was enclosed with the notification letter. Consumers who contacted the BBB reported that they were instructed by DE-LOTTO Trust Group, Inc. representatives to cash the check and wire funds back to DE-LOTTO in order to pay the government taxes for the winnings. The Bureau reported that some consumers did cash the check, but were notified later by their bank that the check was counterfeit and they were liable for the funds they withdrew. The Bureau has confirmed that Apel Machine and Supply, a distributor of mill and plumbing supplies, had no connection to DE-LOTTO TRUST GROUP, INC. or any lottery-related company.
With several BBB’s across the nation reporting a higher than normal number of inquiries from consumers, the BBB has forwarded the information to PhoneBusters. While most of these lottery notification letters deservedly end up in the trash, there appears to be an increase in the number of people who are taking them seriously. People need to realize the danger in responding to unofficial lottery-related solicitations. If they cash the counterfeit checks, they can end up liable for any funds they spend while waiting for the funds to clear. Even if no money is transferred to these organizations, simply providing an ID or bank account details to an unknown party makes consumers vulnerable to identity theft and fraudulent use of their bank account. “If you are being asked to pay money to receive money, consider it a big red flag.” advised Jennifer Klohr of the Central Illinois BBB. If you are being directed to wire money, send a check, provide access to your bank account or credit card numbers or forward personal financial information in order to claim your winnings, contact your BBB. This is an attempt to steal your money or identity, by a person masquerading as a lottery official. If you have won a legitimate, legal lottery, you do not have to pay taxes, custom fees, shipping or handling or any other fee before receiving your winnings. In addition, it is illegal to participate in a foreign lottery through U.S. mail. "Lottery winners" and businesses who believe their banking account data is being misused in a cross-border lottery scheme should report the incident to PhoneBusters at 1.888.495.8501 or send information to: PhoneBusters, Box 686, North Bay, Ontario P1B 8J8. PhoneBusters, run by Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ontario Provincial Police, provides a central complaint database for law enforcement. They also liaise with the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI, U.S. Customs, Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general offices.
For 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB more than 100 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 114 local, independent BBB's across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.
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