The BBB is warning consumers and businesses to be on the alert for a scam involving a fake lottery and counterfeit checks.
The scammers use both regular mail and e-mail to tell people they have won substantial sums of money in a foreign lottery, according to a press release from the BBB.
Consumers often are given a telephone number to call and then instructed to cash certified checks in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $9,000 in order to collect their "entire award package." They are then instructed to wire the money or send their own check back to the lottery company to cover fees or taxes, the bureau said.
Judy Redden of Chicago told the BBB that she wired $3,870 through Western Union after receiving a letter that stated she had won $2.8 million from the Australian Lottery. The money she sent supposedly was needed to cover fees for sending the money here.
"I had to pay $250 to deliver the check, then $720 for the insurance, then $2,900 for more insurance, then $3,000 for a certificate," she said. "I told the agent I didn't have any more money and I was not going to send him $3,000 and I wanted a refund. Have not heard from the agent and no refund."
Redden's agent's name was Peter Macourt who operates from 104 Victoria Rd. in London, England, with the phone number of 011-44-799-099-7582, according to the BBB
"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," said Steve J. Bernas, BBB spokesperson. "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."
The bureau press release cautions consumers not to allow enticing dollar signs to obstruct common sense. 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 the BBB.
This is an attempt to steal your money or identity, by a person masquerading as a lottery official, the bureau said.
"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," Bernas added.
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, the BBB notes.
To learn more about foreign lottery scams and check scams, visit www.bbb.org.