Oregon State Police plan to announce today that they are investigating a scam targeting the elderly that promises large unclaimed lottery winnings from two fictitious Salem companies.
The scam has claimed at least seven victims in Georgia, Florida, California and Pennsylvania who combined have lost about $30,000, Detective Rich Dennis of the Oregon State Police said Wednesday.
Here's how the scam works: A letter arrives in the mail on letterhead from fake Salem firms Golden Lotto Mega Bucks or Top Hat Lotto, Dennis said. It encourages recipients to call a toll-free telephone number that begins with 866 in order to claim up to $750,000 from last year's shared lottery winnings.
After calling, they are told they will receive in the mail a check equal to 1 percent of their winnings that must be used to pay for insurance on the funds. After depositing the check, they are asked to withdraw the same amount of money, then wire the funds back through Western Union.
A day or two later, the victims, thinking the rest of their winnings are on the way, receive a call from the bank saying the check from the Salem company has bounced.
At that point, they've lost thousands of dollars, Dennis said. The most a known victim has lost so far is almost $7,000, he said.
The letters started appearing in early May, Dennis said. Investigators don't expect any victims in Oregon because the state lottery requires winners to buy a ticket or sit at a video poker machine to win, he said.