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Residents taken in by lottery scam

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

Area residents are falling victim to a costly scam.

A source, who chose to remain anonymous, recently reported having been tempted by what the Texas Attorney General”s Office calls the “Canadian Lottery Scam.” The source reported that she received a cashiers” check in the mail along with a letter reporting that she”

d won the Canadian Lottery, and asking her to remit payment upwards of $3,000 to claim her prize.

Prior to remitting the money, which she was told would apply toward “international taxes,” the source presented the check to her bank, only to discover that the cashiers” check had been forged. Although reports of similar incidents are rare in Caldwell County, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) says that such cases are not uncommon.

“It usually begins with an enthusiastic and convincing telemarketer who informs you that you have won the Canadian Lottery,” said Attorney General Greg Abbott. “In some cases, the caller will tell you that to claim your prize, you must wire him money for taxes. Instead, you never see your money again and the prize never arrives.”

Similar scams have been reported in the San Marcos area, although again, the complainants chose to remain unidentified.

“Most people will not report it due to embarrassment for being victimized in this type of scam,” said Sgt. Paul Cowan of the Caldwell County Sheriff”s Department. Cowan said that there have not been recent reports of citizens being taken in by such scams. Still, the threat remains.

According to the OAG, Texas residents have lost sums of money between $500 and $3,000 in such scams.

“In a similar version of the scam, the caller asks for your bank account number so that the prize can be deposited directly,” Abbott said. “Instead, the con artists clean out your bank account. In yet another version, the caller asks for a credit card or banTk account number, “for verification.” Again, you lose.”

Still another scam preys on those who have already fallen victim to the “Canadian Lottery” scheme. Telemarketers call alleged “lottery winners,” requesting that they invest in a class-action suit. Often, the telemarketers are the same ones who originally called the victims to inform them of their “win.”

“This is an old scheme,” said Lockhart Chief of Police Frank Coggins. “[It is] predicated on the human weakness to get something for nothing.”

As early as 2003, the OAG reported citizens who complained of such scams.

“An elderly Central Texas man was taken for his entire life savings,” Abbott said. “He wanted “the prize money” he thought he had won in the Canadian Lottery to ensure that his wife, who is suffering from an advanced stage of Alzheimer”s Disease, would be taken care of her life. He had already taken out a second mortgage and was preparing to fly to Montreal to personally deliver $50,000 in “tax money” when we intervened.”

An Internet website, consumeraffairs.com, lists more than 60 common complaints for online or telephonic marketing scams.

“The most widespread scam the last few years is the “government grant scam,”” the site reads. “… the caller says the government is giving away money. The answer to this is simple: the government doesn”t give away money to individuals for no particular reason.”

There have also been reports of victims being asked to release bank account or credit card information under the premise of being under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit, or under investigation by the OAG.

“Neither our office nor the IRS could ever contact you in this manner,” Abbott said. “We would never request your banking or credit card information, and we would certainly never ask you for money for any purpose.”

Officials report that an organization called “Project PhoneBusters” has Canadian law enforcement officials working to investigate the “Canadian Lottery” scheme.

Potential victims of such schemes are encouraged to either hang up on the caller or not acknowledge the mail-out. Further, Abbott, Cowan and Coggins ask all residents who have fallen victim to such a scheme to come forward.

The OAG”s Consumer Protection Hotline can be reached at 1-800/252-8011. The Caldwell County Sheriff”s Department is available at (512) 398-6777, and the Lockhart Police Department at (512) 398-4401.

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