Police are reminding residents to be wary of so-called international lottery scams in which large sums are promised but require recipients to send money before they can claim their prize.
Two Camden, New Jersey, residents were recently victims of this scam, police said.
One woman, an 84-year-old, sent a total of $25,000, money she got through cash advances on a credit card.
She reported the scam to police Sept. 29 after her prize money never arrived, said Camden Det. Zsakhiemcq James.
A 55-year-old woman sent about $4,000 after receiving a letter Sept. 22 notifying her that she won in the "third draw" of the "Scotland Lotto." She notified police on Monday10/23.
These scams have several things in common, James said.
The notification letter comes on official-looking letterhead and reads like an official, legal-sounding letter.
Victims are asked to send money for "taxes, fees, processing," etc., by FedEx, MoneyGram or Western Union, and told that the money is needed before the prize money can be released. Victims are also given a name and phone number to call to verify they won and to make arrangements to send the money.
When the victims call, they are assured that they are a lottery winner. Victims are given a short period of time to place the call or they lose the money.
In the case of the 84-year-old woman, her credit card company covered the loss and is not charging her, said James, who noted that is not typical.
The 55-year-old woman, however, will not recover her money. In her case, she received a check that the "lottery company" said was to cover taxes and fees. She was instructed to deposit the check into her own bank account, then withdraw the same amount and send it back.
She did but the original check was a fake, James said.
James said the names of the lottery companies and the addresses are constantly changing. Fraudulent names have included the North American Lottery, the Nigeria Lottery and the Scotland Lotto.
Legitimate lotteries will not ask you to send any money up front for any reason. Any taxes or fees will be deducted from your winnings before you receive the prize money.
Never deposit a check into your own bank account and then return the same amount to the sender. It may take a week or so before the fake check is discovered by the bank.
The scam solicitations can come by e-mail or letter.
Often, they will contain misspelled words, though that is happening less as the scammers become more sophisticated.
The solicitations can indicate they are from a lottery, from an individual trapped in a foreign country (often Nigeria), or from an organization, including a faith-based or charitable group.
Report any solicitations you receive to your local police department or to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Newark office, at (973) 693-5400.