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Couple nearly victims of lottery scam

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Couple nearly victims of lottery scam

A Francestown, New Hampshire, couple already living on the edge came close to financial ruin after almost getting sucked into what authorities suspect was a foreign lottery scam.

"We thought the check was our answer to a lot of prayers," said Susan Gadwah, who received notice through the mail last week she was a $450,000 winner in a Canadian lottery, along with a check for $4,700 — to cover non-Canadian residency tax deducted from her winnings.

When she went to a Goffstown branch of Bank of America Friday to cash the $4,700 check, everything seemed on the up-and-up.

"I told the teller that I'd like to cash this check, and she scanned it under the blue document light, which validated it. Then she went to the vault to get the money and was in the process of counting it out," Gadwah said. "It sailed right through."

Scam targets Ronald and Susan "Suki" Gadwah sit in their Francestown home with a copy of the check and letter sent to them telling them they had won a Canadian lottery. The letter indicated they had won a large amount of money and would need to remit $2,800 fee to cover taxes.

That's when her husband, Ronald, said in passing to the teller, "Can you believe she won the lottery?"

Big red flag — in the shape of a Canadian Maple Leaf.

"She took the letter and the check from me, came back, and said it was counterfeit," Gadwah said. "Had I taken the money and left, I would've been the one in trouble."

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, consumers send $120 million a year to those running bogus lottery schemes.

The Federal Trade Commission has long warned about such scams, noting they often are based in Canada. Federal law enforcement authorities have intercepted and destroyed millions of foreign lottery mailings sent or delivered by the truckload into the United States.

In Gadwah's case, everything about her letter — issued by Suntrust Finance Inc. out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and check, endorsed by Internet Escrow Services, in Irvine, Calif., and drawn on Bank of America — looked authentic, even to the bank teller, Gadwah said.

Enclosed with the check was a letter informing Gadwah that she was "winner in the second category of a lottery draw held June 6, 2007," from a group drawing made for all "one-time participants of a national state lottery sweepstakes in the last five years."

Yes, she had purchased a Canadian lottery ticket several years ago, which made it easier to believe she might actually have won something.

But instead of depositing the check in her own bank account, as instructed to do in the letter, then drawing out a portion of the money once it cleared to send back to the company, Gadwah decided to take the direct route to her winnings: She took the check to the nearest branch of the originating bank, Bank of America.

"I was a little leery about calling some number in Canada and giving them my personal information," Gadwah said.

It was a move that probably saved her from financial ruin.

"The first thing I was going to do was pay off these medical bills," Gadwah said.

Her husband, a disabled Vietnam veteran, suffers from liver disease. He was injured in a parachuting accident during the war and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. After years of "self-medicating," her husband, at 58, has had several near-death experiences, accounting for the pile of medical bills they can't afford to pay.

"You have no idea how exciting it was to think we'd actually won something, only to have it turn out like this," Gadwah said. "If we got as close to cashing that check as we did, I would think there are others out there who might get scammed, too."

Yesterday, a supervisor at the bank branch said she couldn't comment and referred questions to corporate headquarters.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, foreign lottery scams are among the top-five most costly frauds for unwitting consumers.

In fact, reports of similar scams abound on the Internet, posted on consumer self-help sites by those who weren't as lucky as Gadwah. Some of the most recent postings detail Canadian lottery scam letters that read, word for word, like Gadwah's letter.

A warning posted three years ago on www.usps.com reads, in part:

"Most — if not all — foreign lottery come-ons sent to U.S. addresses through the mail are bogus. They don't come from foreign government agencies or licensees. Instead, they come from con artists who take your money and give you nothing in return. A federal statute prohibits mailing payments to purchase any ticket, share, or chance in a foreign lottery. Except for state-owned and operated lotteries, federal law prohibits sending lottery material through the mail."

A call placed Friday night by the New Hampshire Union Leader to the phone number listed on Gadwah's letter was answered "Sun Trust" by a male with a heavy foreign accent. When told the call pertained to a bad check sent out by the company, and a request was made to speak to a manager, the man hung up the phone.

A follow-up call minutes later went unanswered.

Gadwah said she made sure she got copies of the check and the letter from the teller. She plans to follow up with the proper authorities.

"On a Friday, you can't get a hold of anyone. All I could do was call my local police, who said it's not in their jurisdiction," Gadwah said.

Francestown Police Officer Ken Whicker, who spoke Friday with the Gadwahs, said anyone in New Hampshire who gets a letter from California saying they won a Canadian lottery should smell a scam in progress — just based on the geographical improbabilities of it all.

"I'm not saying anything bad about Canada — they're our neighbors, and we love them. I'm just saying that the combination of circumstances, in this case, ought to tip somebody off that it's not real," Whicker said.

For the Gadwahs, life will go. Their house, which has been up for sale for months, is languishing in a buyer's market.

"We're trying to sell our property and move to West Virginia so he can get treatment," Gadwah said. "We've been told things are better down there for veterans."

In the end, Gadwah said, she's mostly relieved that her troubles weren't compounded by bank fraud charges.

"To get a letter like this, that could be the answer to all our prayers, only to find it could've been the worse nightmare of my life," Gadwah said. "Yeah, I guess you could say I feel lucky."

Editor:  More extensive information about lottery scams, including actual letters and checks sent to potential victims, can be found at USA Mega, at the following web address: http://www.usamega.com/lottery-scams.asp

Union Leader

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17 comments. Last comment 9 years ago by puller23.
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Avatar
Coastal Georgia
United States
Member #2653
October 30, 2003
1866 Posts
Offline
Posted: July 30, 2007, 11:09 am - IP Logged

Evidently, the Gadwah's did not check out USA mega ... 

But I'm glad they found out it was a scam before it was too late.

 

                               

              

 

 

    RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
    mid-Ohio
    United States
    Member #9
    March 24, 2001
    19823 Posts
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    Posted: July 30, 2007, 1:57 pm - IP Logged

    "We thought the check was our answer to a lot of prayers," said Susan Gadwah, who received notice through the mail last week she was a $450,000 winner in a Canadian lottery, along with a check for $4,700 


    Where are people getting their information about God if they really believe he's running a Canadian lottery and mailing out checks in answer to their prayers?

     * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
       
                 Evil Looking       

      justxploring's avatar - villiarna
      Wandering Aimlessly
      United States
      Member #25360
      November 5, 2005
      4461 Posts
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      Posted: July 30, 2007, 2:48 pm - IP Logged

      According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, consumers send $120 million a year to those running bogus lottery schemes.

      Mrs. Gadwah said she bought a ticket "several years" earlier, which made it easier for her to believe she'd won.  Honestly, I don't think I'm scam-proof, but I have little sympathy for these people. That statement doesn't make any sense.  Even if I got something in the mail telling me I won the Florida raffle, I'd wonder how that was possible. Yes, I did buy a ticket in July, but my name wasn't entered into the terminal. They know where the winner bought the ticket, but they never know the person's name until they come forward to claim the money.  Are there lotteries where the player fills out a form with his/her name & address? Seriously, before taking any action, even the most gullible person only has to make a simple phone call to make sure the win is legitimate. 

       "I was a little leery about calling some number in Canada and giving them my personal information," Gadwah said.

      Again, does this make sense if she believed she won a real lottery?  Some number? Plus anyone with common sense knows the Lottery doesn't write to you if you win.  Even Publisher's Clearing House sends Ed McMahon or Dick Clark to your house! 

      No, I'm not really mean.  I actually feel badly for people who get cheated out of their hard earned money.   

        Avatar
        Coastal Georgia
        United States
        Member #2653
        October 30, 2003
        1866 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: July 30, 2007, 3:10 pm - IP Logged

        According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, consumers send $120 million a year to those running bogus lottery schemes.

        Mrs. Gadwah said she bought a ticket "several years" earlier, which made it easier for her to believe she'd won.  Honestly, I don't think I'm scam-proof, but I have little sympathy for these people. That statement doesn't make any sense.  Even if I got something in the mail telling me I won the Florida raffle, I'd wonder how that was possible. Yes, I did buy a ticket in July, but my name wasn't entered into the terminal. They know where the winner bought the ticket, but they never know the person's name until they come forward to claim the money.  Are there lotteries where the player fills out a form with his/her name & address? Seriously, before taking any action, even the most gullible person only has to make a simple phone call to make sure the win is legitimate. 

         "I was a little leery about calling some number in Canada and giving them my personal information," Gadwah said.

        Again, does this make sense if she believed she won a real lottery?  Some number? Plus anyone with common sense knows the Lottery doesn't write to you if you win.  Even Publisher's Clearing House sends Ed McMahon or Dick Clark to your house! 

        No, I'm not really mean.  I actually feel badly for people who get cheated out of their hard earned money.   

        I Agree!  But yet and still, people continue to fall for these scams .

        They forget to use common sense. They get blinded by the flashes of dollar signs.

        The Gadwah's were lucky, albeit stupid to follow the money trail as far as they did.

         

                                       

                      

         

         

          Tenaj's avatar - michellea
          Charlotte NC
          United States
          Member #17406
          June 18, 2005
          4053 Posts
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          Posted: July 30, 2007, 4:08 pm - IP Logged

          What?I think deep down inside people know that they didn't win a lottery but their actions do the opposite.  The human mind is complex.  Scam factor is surpressed because they want it to be true so badly.  So they fool themselves.  They tell themselves lies.  I think all kinds of red flags goes off in their minds that get buried deeper and deeper all the way to the Bank Teller. 

          I think it's the human thought process, greed, and need that makes these kind of scams work.  But for the most part - the thought process.  People create their own reality.  The scam artists knows this.  Just like movie directors know how we will react to images on a screen.

          Scam artists know how we think when a large check is shoved in the face.  They know that a great deal of people believe in miracles and will throw out the thought that it's a scam and bury the red flags almost immediately. 

          I think that even people like us who even know better - will look at that check for a long time before tearing it up, willing it to be real. 

          I think it's the same kind of thinking that people who borrow money from friends but borrow so many times without paying back that they think it's a gift.  Something gets lost in the thought process.  They create that reality.  I think they think, it must be a gift, they keep giving it to me.

          Even the dumbest and less informed person about lottery scams will think after receiving a check will question- Is this real?  Where does the reasoning "Is this real" go?  

          I think people fool themselves in believing that those checks are real and scam artists know the mentality behind it and bank on it.  Just my thoughts. 

          takeemtothebank

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            Coastal Georgia
            United States
            Member #2653
            October 30, 2003
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            Posted: July 30, 2007, 4:23 pm - IP Logged

            What?I think deep down inside people know that they didn't win a lottery but their actions do the opposite.  The human mind is complex.  Scam factor is surpressed because they want it to be true so badly.  So they fool themselves.  They tell themselves lies.  I think all kinds of red flags goes off in their minds that get buried deeper and deeper all the way to the Bank Teller. 

            I think it's the human thought process, greed, and need that makes these kind of scams work.  But for the most part - the thought process.  People create their own reality.  The scam artists knows this.  Just like movie directors know how we will react to images on a screen.

            Scam artists know how we think when a large check is shoved in the face.  They know that a great deal of people believe in miracles and will throw out the thought that it's a scam and bury the red flags almost immediately. 

            I think that even people like us who even know better - will look at that check for a long time before tearing it up, willing it to be real. 

            I think it's the same kind of thinking that people who borrow money from friends but borrow so many times without paying back that they think it's a gift.  Something gets lost in the thought process.  They create that reality.  I think they think, it must be a gift, they keep giving it to me.

            Even the dumbest and less informed person about lottery scams will think after receiving a check will question- Is this real?  Where does the reasoning "Is this real" go?  

            I think people fool themselves in believing that those checks are real and scam artists know the mentality behind it and bank on it.  Just my thoughts. 

            Good to see you back posting again, Tenaj... 

             

                                           

                          

             

             

              stavros's avatar - avatar 6898.gif
              Florida
              United States
              Member #6147
              August 8, 2004
              1396 Posts
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              Posted: July 30, 2007, 5:39 pm - IP Logged

              Perhaps US authorites should do some public service announcements which would include the following:

               

              ...particularly with the Canadian lotteries.  All lottery payments are in cash, with no deductions.  These winnings are not taxable in Canada if you win on this lottery.  There is no further liability for any amount, and you actually get 100% of the prize amount that is forecast. 

              If a Canadian wins the Canadian lottery, the funds are given to the winner in cash, with no tax liabilities ever.  If a US citizen wins the Canadian lottery, they would also be given the winning amount all at once, without any tax liability in Canada

              Good Luck!

              Stavros

               

                eddessaknight's avatar - nw paladin.jpg
                LAS VEGAS
                United States
                Member #47729
                November 22, 2006
                4494 Posts
                Online
                Posted: July 30, 2007, 5:58 pm - IP Logged

                Jux-

                 

                "Again, does this make sense if she believed she won a real lottery?" ~J

                The compelling desire to win can be so strong that it overcomes common sense.  It is a phenomena that affects all gamblers i.e suckers as they say in Vegas.                                                                                       

                A  fish can't be caught unless it has it's mouth open!

                Caveta Emptor for those who seek something for nothing: usually those who are desperately seeking the Golden Fleece are the one who wind up getting fleeced themselves - sorry, no free lunches.

                EddessaKnight Sun Smiley

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                  Member #10720
                  January 23, 2005
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                  Posted: July 30, 2007, 9:05 pm - IP Logged

                  I don't think it's right that if someone is victim of a scam they themselves can be prosecuted for bank fraud. If anything if the bank gave them the money they should only have the recourse of maybe putting a lien on their property but not criminal charges! I think it should be the bank's responsibility to validate the source of the funds, maybe hold the check a few days and once it's validated then pay it if it's legit.

                    Avatar
                    New Member

                    Canada
                    Member #13429
                    April 5, 2005
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                    Posted: July 31, 2007, 12:16 am - IP Logged

                    First of all, I have noticed that people in the USA seem to think that all scams for lotteries seem to originate in Canada. C'mon, people, you cannot be that naive!!!!!Please tell me that you use Ouija boards also.  For god's sake, we in Canada are just like you in the US. We eat the same foods, we drink beer,(although with different names)  You have probably over 150 million people in the US, we have 26 million.  YOU DON'T THINK THIS WOULD HAPPEN MORE FROM YOUR OWN COUNTRY THAN FROM LI'L OLE CANADA?????  Just THINK next time you receive anything about winning money YOU DID NOT EVEN BUY A TICKET FOR!!!!!!!!!!

                      spy153's avatar - maren

                      United States
                      Member #28409
                      December 15, 2005
                      1198 Posts
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                      Posted: July 31, 2007, 10:46 am - IP Logged

                      I don't think it's right that if someone is victim of a scam they themselves can be prosecuted for bank fraud. If anything if the bank gave them the money they should only have the recourse of maybe putting a lien on their property but not criminal charges! I think it should be the bank's responsibility to validate the source of the funds, maybe hold the check a few days and once it's validated then pay it if it's legit.

                      I Agree! I think its the bank's responsibility to validate the check period.

                      voir-vous dans mes reves!Cool

                        mylollipop's avatar - Trek STLOGO6.png

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                        October 21, 2005
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                        Posted: August 1, 2007, 1:25 am - IP Logged

                        If the bank teller validated the check as good from their own bank!  How could the couple be responsible for the bad check.  The person who WROTE the check is responsible for the bad check.  I can understand the desire to believe, especially when those medical bills pile up and they are greivously delinquent.  I comment the couple on taking the check to the bank it was drawn on.  It amazes me that the teller did not look at the account it was drawn on to validate the authencity of the account and to see if sufficient funds were available.   

                          justxploring's avatar - villiarna
                          Wandering Aimlessly
                          United States
                          Member #25360
                          November 5, 2005
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                          Posted: August 1, 2007, 4:16 pm - IP Logged

                          If the bank teller validated the check as good from their own bank!  How could the couple be responsible for the bad check.  The person who WROTE the check is responsible for the bad check.  I can understand the desire to believe, especially when those medical bills pile up and they are greivously delinquent.  I comment the couple on taking the check to the bank it was drawn on.  It amazes me that the teller did not look at the account it was drawn on to validate the authencity of the account and to see if sufficient funds were available.   

                          I thought there was something wrong with this article when I first read it.  Something is definitely missing.  Taking a check to the bank against which a check is written is safer than depositing it in your own bank, so I agree with your statement.  I don't see how any teller could withdraw money from an invalid account. 

                          However, if I deposit a bad check in my account, I am held responsible for that check.  So this couple would have been in trouble. That's why many stores now use a check verification service that is added onto the credit card machine.  Since I worked in a furniture store, it didn't matter most of the time.  I mean, nobody would order furniture that was going to be delivered to their home and write a bad check, right?  However, if someone walked into the store and wanted to take something in his car or truck, we always wanted cash or a credit card.  If someone only had a check, I then called the bank to verify the funds.  If the client got insulted, I just said it wasn't anything personal, just a company rule.

                          This isn't directly related to the story, but a side note on my above comment:  I once got my hands slapped at a store because I asked for a photo ID and phone number for a check. The reason was because the customers looked like rich retirees, and they probably were.  So what?  Giving preferential treatment to a "proper looking" lady with a big diamond and a Mercedes is profiling and it's wrong unless you treat everyone the same way. 

                            stavros's avatar - avatar 6898.gif
                            Florida
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                            Member #6147
                            August 8, 2004
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                            Posted: August 1, 2007, 4:37 pm - IP Logged

                            A similar incident happened to a friend of mine.  She cashed a couple of checks, on two separate occassions, at the bank where her account was, which was also the bank the checks were drawn on.  The tellers cashed the checks for her, and then they hit her later because there was insufficient funds in the account that the checks were drawn on, and wanted the money returned.  She used the same logic asking why the bank would cash the checks if there was no money in the account.  She went to the VP of the bank and got nowhere.  The bank then froze her mother's account!  She contacted the bank's attorney, who is also on the Board of Directors of the Bank, and also got nowhere.  She is now waiting fot this to go to court.  Her premise is the same.....how could they withdraw the funds from an account that didn't have money in it to cover the checks!

                            Good Luck!

                            Stavros