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N.J. investigators warn of lottery scam

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: N.J. investigators warn of lottery scam

Same old lottery scam that people keep falling for

Melissa A. Garcia, a financially strapped single mother, rejoiced last month when she received a letter proclaiming she had won $65,000 in the Horizon Empire Sweepstakes.

The letter even came with a legitimate-looking business check for $2,450.80. The money, the letter stated, was supposed to cover "taxes and clearance fees" so Garcia could claim her prize.

"I thought it was my way out of all the things I've been through," said Garcia, 28, a mother of a 3-year-old daughter who works as a debt collector and lives with her uncle in Belmar, Monmouth County.

But the letter's promised deliverance never came.

Garcia narrowly averted losing $2,300 in a mail scam officials say has targeted at least 800 local residents, most of them senior citizens in Ocean County. In at least three cases in the past two years, residents lost a total of $123,000.

One man was defrauded of $80,000, said Cindy E. Boyd, a senior investigator who heads the Senior Scam Task Force for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. In two other cases, a mother and son lost $27,000, and a senior woman lost $16,000.

Boyd and other officials say the scam works like this: A letter arrives in the mail announcing the recipient has won a lottery or sweepstakes. The phony lottery appears under many names, such as the Spanish Lottery, the International Lottery or the Switzerland Lottery.

Enclosed is a check, usually for $2,000 to $10,000, and directs the winner to call a phone number. The recipient is then instructed to deposit the check in his or her bank account. After the check is deposited, the supposed lottery winner is told to transfer, by wire, about the same amount of money back to the lottery, to pay for taxes or fees.

However, the lottery's check to the winner bounces within days because it is drawn on a phony or closed bank account. However, the victim has lost real money, the thousands of dollars sent to the scammers via a wire or money order service.

The phone numbers the victim calls are typically linked to cell phones in Canada, Boyd said.

If a victim does wire away money, then the perpetrators call and ask for more. They keep asking until the victim finally gives up or goes broke.

Boyd said she has trained bank tellers in Ocean County to spot the bogus checks and to question residents about suspicious transactions. One resident recently wired away $16,000 over five days and was about to withdraw money off her credit card before a teller questioned her about it.

When the woman told the teller about "winning the lottery," the teller informed her she was being taken by a scam and then called police.

"The woman almost had a heart attack," Boyd said. "She was hoping to leave money for her grandchildren.

"So far, police and local banks have stopped $4.2 million in bogus checks from being cashed over the past two years, Boyd said.

"I ask people why they send the money," Boyd said. "The majority tell me they're greedy. Others tell me they were stupid. And some say they wanted to have some money for their family."

Stephen Scaturro, director of the Ocean County Consumer Affairs office, said he and Boyd have been warning residents about the scam in public service announcements on cable television.

Scaturro said he tells residents: "If you have to pay to win a prize, it's not a prize; it's a scam.

About 100 complaints have been filed with the Ocean County Consumer Affairs office. Monmouth County Consumer Affairs director Patricia Watson said she has only two complaints about the lottery scam.

Belmar's Garcia did deposit the scammer's check in her bank, but narrowly avoided being taken. She called the telephone number in the letter and started asking questions about why she had to send $2,300 via Western Union. Her uncle, Barry Shambaugh, also got on the phone with the supposed lottery representative, who said he would talk to a supervisor and call them back.

The scammer never called again and no one has answered that telephone number since, Garcia said.

Her ultimate loss: $10. That was from the bank's bounced check fee for the phony lottery deposit.

"It's enough to make you mad," Garcia said. "Somebody is building your hopes up and then tearing everything away from you. They're bums. They're taking money away from hardworking people while they do nothing but steal people's money."

Gannett

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6 comments. Last comment 10 years ago by LckyLary.
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psykomo's avatar - animal shark.jpg

United States
Member #4877
May 30, 2004
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Posted: September 19, 2006, 2:17 am - IP Logged


Thankssssssssssss

......"NJ">>>>>!

 

    justxploring's avatar - villiarna
    Wandering Aimlessly
    United States
    Member #25360
    November 5, 2005
    4461 Posts
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    Posted: September 19, 2006, 8:35 pm - IP Logged

    I should probably stop posting when I see a news article like this, because I sound mean and I'm not.  The people who scam others to steal their money are terrible human beings and should be punished severely.  Too bad a lot of them aren't caught.  I really feel awful when I hear that people are scammed.  In fact, one reason I've had trouble at a few jobs is because I won't take advantage of anyone or lie. However, the people in these articles really have to be stupid!!

    Sorry, just the way I see it.  I got a call a couple of months ago telling me I won a Cadillac Escalade and I told the guy I never entered any such contest. He then asked me if I've been on web sites like XXX.com (can't remember the name) and I said "maybe, but I'd never give out my home phone number."  Who knows?  Maybe I lost a brand new SUV!  Eek

    I do dumb things and I have blonde moments and senior moments at the same time, which is really bad! LOL  However, I would never send someone money if he told me I won a lottery or any other contest. It makes no sense whatsoever. Also, don't these people read the news?

      Avatar
      Coastal Georgia
      United States
      Member #2653
      October 30, 2003
      1866 Posts
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      Posted: September 19, 2006, 9:00 pm - IP Logged

      I should probably stop posting when I see a news article like this, because I sound mean and I'm not.  The people who scam others to steal their money are terrible human beings and should be punished severely.  Too bad a lot of them aren't caught.  I really feel awful when I hear that people are scammed.  In fact, one reason I've had trouble at a few jobs is because I won't take advantage of anyone or lie. However, the people in these articles really have to be stupid!!

      Sorry, just the way I see it.  I got a call a couple of months ago telling me I won a Cadillac Escalade and I told the guy I never entered any such contest. He then asked me if I've been on web sites like XXX.com (can't remember the name) and I said "maybe, but I'd never give out my home phone number."  Who knows?  Maybe I lost a brand new SUV!  Eek

      I do dumb things and I have blonde moments and senior moments at the same time, which is really bad! LOL  However, I would never send someone money if he told me I won a lottery or any other contest. It makes no sense whatsoever. Also, don't these people read the news?

      I Agree!  I agree JXP...

       

      There is a special place in Hell for people that take advantage of others like these scammers... 

       

                                     

                    

       

       

        TheGameGrl's avatar - character catafly.jpg
        A long and winding road
        United States
        Member #17084
        June 10, 2005
        4523 Posts
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        Posted: September 19, 2006, 9:40 pm - IP Logged

        On working with the elders during my younger years, it amazes me that any of them can read the print on these scamms(the print is soo small!). Rarely can I even read it and my eyesight isnt so shabby. its my reading skills sometimes that I worry about. Pronunciation never was my forte. Anywhos, it behooves us as the younger generation to aide our elders when they do receive letters of this nature. We have a right to speak to them and bring awareness to the overall public. This doesnt mean we go thru their personal mail but rather to speak with them in a general nature about this prevailing epidemic that crops up in certain states.

        ~~Is it true, Is it kind,Is it necessary. ~~~

         Thanks be to the giving numbers: 1621,912,119 02014

          justxploring's avatar - villiarna
          Wandering Aimlessly
          United States
          Member #25360
          November 5, 2005
          4461 Posts
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          Posted: September 20, 2006, 2:40 am - IP Logged

          On working with the elders during my younger years, it amazes me that any of them can read the print on these scamms(the print is soo small!). Rarely can I even read it and my eyesight isnt so shabby. its my reading skills sometimes that I worry about. Pronunciation never was my forte. Anywhos, it behooves us as the younger generation to aide our elders when they do receive letters of this nature. We have a right to speak to them and bring awareness to the overall public. This doesnt mean we go thru their personal mail but rather to speak with them in a general nature about this prevailing epidemic that crops up in certain states.

          There are many groups in FL that advise seniors about these scams. I agree we need to spread the word. I tell my neighbors all the time about these scams.  Unfortunately, it also hurts honest people who want to help others. It makes people suspicious. I'm even a little uncomfortable giving out personal information.  2 days ago I got a call "Hi, this is Comcast Cable to install your ....." Well I am a Comcast customer, but I don't have whatever he was installing (something for High Definition TV) and he asked is this (239) XXX-XXXX and it was my number.  Then he asked for my address so I answered "What address does your work order have?" He was calling me from his cell phone I think.  So I went to my computer and typed in the address.  He was the real deal, but some numbers on the work order were transposed.  Times have sure changed since I was a kid!

            Avatar

            United States
            Member #10720
            January 23, 2005
            933 Posts
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            Posted: September 23, 2006, 12:33 am - IP Logged

            How does someone pull a scam on a debt collector? Maybe it was for all the people struggling to make ends meet that can't sit down to a quiet dinner with their family without the phone ringing sometimes with spoofed Caller ID 8 times a day and the person calling (not necessarily this person) having a real attitude. I agree that someone has to be real stupid or living under a rock for the last 50 years to fall for something like that. And yes, better safe than sorry. I always get verification on anything I'm not sure about.