A 71-year-old Clarkstown, New York woman was cheated out of $25,000 through a phony telephone lottery scam, Clarkstown police said yesterday.
A caller told the woman in early November that she had won the $300,000 Canadian lottery and could collect the money after paying taxes, police said.
The woman sent $1,500 to a Chicago address through Western Union. The scammers made follow-up calls and she made 19 payments to various people over the next two months, bringing the total to $25,000, police said.
"Once they hooked her," Detective Sgt. James Doyle said, "they started bleeding her dry for more money."
Doyle said the "Canadian Lottery Scam" targeted mostly older women and that 1.8 million people nationwide had been victimized last year by similar scams.
"There is no such thing as a free lunch," he said.
Doyle said he had spoken with the FBI in hopes that the federal agency could provide the woman with some help. The telephone call came from a 877 number, he said, and was routed through different phone lines and telephone companies so it could not be traced.
"I don't know where the call originated from," Doyle said. "I don't even know how they pick their victims. They could make 50 blind phone calls and get nowhere and the 51st person agrees."
Doyle pointed out that it was illegal to play a foreign lottery by mail or phone.
In addition, he said, buying one ticket could get a person added to an international list that scammers use to search for potential victims.
How to avoid fraud
- If you receive a telephone call that you have won a lottery, do not send money to anyone.
- If you are promised you can easily win a lottery and make money by giving money, don't take part.
- Be wary when telephone solicitors tell you that you must act immediately or you'll miss the opportunity to win money.
- Be wary if people refuse to send you written material and refuse to stop calling after you've asked them to stop.
- It is illegal for companies that run sweepstakes or contests to make you pay money as an entry fee or in order to claim a prize.
- There is no reason for a telemarketer to ask for your credit card or bank information.
- If you have been scammed, call the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.
- If you get a solicitation for a foreign lottery, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, toll free, at 877-382-4357.
- If you think a person is trying to scam you, call your local police department.