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FBI warns about lottery fraud

Mar 9, 2016, 10:00 am

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Scam AlertScam Alert: FBI warns about lottery fraudRating:

The telephone call came from out of the blue. The man on the line told the 83-year-old retired schoolteacher she had won a substantial lottery prize. All that was required to claim the windfall was to pay taxes and other fees.

Before it was over, the victim — a Virginia resident who had meticulously saved for her retirement — was out more than $500,000 in a scam that has become all too familiar among the elderly.

The criminals behind these lottery frauds and other telemarketing scams prey on senior citizens for a variety of reasons, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent John Gardner, who investigated the woman's case out of the FBI's Washington Field Office and eventually helped put the Jamaican man who victimized her behind bars.

"The first thing to know is that lottery scammers have no empathy for the elderly," Gardner said. "For them, it's all about the money." Seniors can be lured into the scam because they have financial difficulties, or they might have enough for themselves but want to leave a legacy for their children. Some may be suffering from mental decline or dementia. "Others are so lonely, they just want someone to talk to," Gardner explained. "Some scammers become 'best friends' with their victims."

There is also the issue of technology. The criminals — many who carry out their crimes from Jamaica — use Internet tools to mask their calls so they appear to be coming from U.S. numbers with particular area codes, such as Las Vegas.

"Elderly people grew up at a time when people weren't defrauding people over the phone," Gardner said. "They are not aware of these Internet masking technologies and are generally not suspicious when the telephone rings."

The fraudsters are as persuasive as they are sophisticated. "The Jamaican lottery scammers are like an organized cyber crime group," Gardner said. "They are closely knit, highly structured, and have U.S. associates — money mules — who help launder their money."

The scammers who make the calls speak excellent English and use well-practiced scripts complete with rebuttals. They are experienced and extremely manipulative. To target victims of a certain age, they buy lead lists that are widely available online.

Gardner received the Virginia woman's complaint in 2011. The ensuing investigation eventually resulted in the identification of seven subjects, all of whom were charged in connection with the lottery scheme. Six of those individuals have been convicted, and one is a fugitive. The ringleader, Paul Laing, 31, of Sandy Bay, Jamaica, was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for his leadership role in the scheme.

Laing pled guilty in October 2015, admitting that he defrauded numerous elderly victims, including the woman from Virginia who lost her life savings. Laing instructed victims to send funds through wire transfers, the U.S. mail, and other means directly to him in Jamaica or to co-conspirators in the U.S. Those co-conspirators — the money mules — kept a portion of the proceeds and transferred the rest to Laing. The illicit funds ran to hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 23 known victims, Gardner said, adding that there were likely many more victims who never came forward.

Don't Fall Victim to Lottery Scams

The Federal Trade Commission — the nation's consumer protection agency — offers the following advice to avoid falling victim to lottery scams and other telemarketing frauds:

  • Don't pay money to collect supposed lottery or sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect, you are not winning, you are buying. Legitimate sweepstakes don't require you to pay insurance, taxes, or shipping and handling fees to collect your prize.
  • Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money's been sent, there's very little chance of recovery. Likewise, resist any push to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you've been cheated.
  • Remember that phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology allows scammers to disguise their area code so it looks like they're calling from your local area, but they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

FBI

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20 comments. Last comment 5 years ago by dr65.
Page 1 of 2

United States
Member #165916
April 27, 2015
7915 Posts
Offline

This is similar to Nigerian 419 scam. Even if you played lotto, ur the one who has to contact the lotto agency or whomever u bought the ticket from after u win. These scammers tend to target the elderly a lot, and I thought wisdom grows when people age. Common sense should prevail in such cases. I'm seen my share of scammers here on LP too. Caveat emptor!

    haymaker's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
    Egg Harbor twp.south Jersey shore
    United States
    Member #112964
    June 29, 2011
    4135 Posts
    Offline

    Seems like these victims are always meticulous savers, never hear of this happening to a spendthrift.

    Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds    -- Charles Mackay  LL.D.

      gocart1's avatar - lighthouse
      ONEONTA,NEW YORK
      United States
      Member #30515
      January 17, 2006
      447 Posts
      Offline

      I get scammers from P.C.House  all the time ..They tell me i won and I need to send money somewhere to get my big check..There is a Dave ,Todd and Danielle..They tend to use the name Danielle a lot more ..I just play dump with them.It's fun to play with them ..SORRY ..YEA .I KNOW ..I'M GOING TO HELL ..PartyUS FlagParty

        Avatar
        Simpsonville
        United States
        Member #163184
        January 22, 2015
        2437 Posts
        Offline

        This is similar to Nigerian 419 scam. Even if you played lotto, ur the one who has to contact the lotto agency or whomever u bought the ticket from after u win. These scammers tend to target the elderly a lot, and I thought wisdom grows when people age. Common sense should prevail in such cases. I'm seen my share of scammers here on LP too. Caveat emptor!

        Anxiously awaiting my lottery scam phone call.  Will play along to the max and even ask where to wire the money to.  then they'll call in a few days (I would imagine) and say they did not receive the money.  Then I'll give them a fake name of the person that received the money.

          Raven62's avatar - binary
          25
          New Jersey
          United States
          Member #17842
          June 28, 2005
          139486 Posts
          Online

          Deduct the Fees and Taxes from my Winnings and Send me the rest! LOL

          A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions!

          Catch-22: A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

          Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges: When the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous.

            music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
            USN United States Navy
            Fresno, California
            United States
            Member #157851
            August 2, 2014
            3959 Posts
            Offline

             Thanks to Todd & the FBI for the heads up. 

             The more info the better for the elderly.

            Type

             "We are all in this together!" 

              Avatar

              United States
              Member #141030
              April 2, 2013
              1481 Posts
              Offline

              Preying on the elderly is almost like prostitution in a way. It comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. It is age old and the low hanging fruit and it will never go away. These con artists know that the elderly are very trusting and vulnerable.

              Seek and ye shall find -Matt. 7:7 ...Ask and ye shall receive -John 16:24 ...Give and it shall be given unto you -Luke 6:38 ...Be careful what you ask for!!! -Mypiemaster 1:1

              Having Money Solves Problems That Not Having Money Creates Yes Nod ****John Carlton****

                Avatar

                United States
                Member #141030
                April 2, 2013
                1481 Posts
                Offline

                This is similar to Nigerian 419 scam. Even if you played lotto, ur the one who has to contact the lotto agency or whomever u bought the ticket from after u win. These scammers tend to target the elderly a lot, and I thought wisdom grows when people age. Common sense should prevail in such cases. I'm seen my share of scammers here on LP too. Caveat emptor!

                It's funny how the Nigerian scam is usually prevalent in Jamaica, Texas/Georgia and the Soviet Union. Picture somebody from Russia trying to talk like a "Nigerian". I think some of those good Nigerians are getting a bad rap.

                Seek and ye shall find -Matt. 7:7 ...Ask and ye shall receive -John 16:24 ...Give and it shall be given unto you -Luke 6:38 ...Be careful what you ask for!!! -Mypiemaster 1:1

                Having Money Solves Problems That Not Having Money Creates Yes Nod ****John Carlton****

                  Avatar

                  Sweden
                  Member #153624
                  March 20, 2014
                  220 Posts
                  Offline

                  It's funny how the Nigerian scam is usually prevalent in Jamaica, Texas/Georgia and the Soviet Union. Picture somebody from Russia trying to talk like a "Nigerian". I think some of those good Nigerians are getting a bad rap.

                  419eater dot com is one of the funniest pages on internet, the site documents how scammers got scamed themselves. "The road to Skeleton Coast" is pure entertainmen. Note that gpshoaxlinks not works anymore. The site is quite old.

                  Return of Lotto Investment, ROI: ROI 2020: 31% | 2019: 39% | 2018 50% | 2017 47% | 2016 12,6% | 2015 20% | 2014 20%

                  Return of Stock market investment: 144% (2017-2021)

                  Notable wins: Viking Lotto $1.152 - 2017

                    dallascowboyfan's avatar - chi
                    Oklahoma
                    United States
                    Member #82389
                    November 12, 2009
                    6371 Posts
                    Offline

                    If you have any elderly relatives please check on them to make sure they are not being scammed.

                    I Love Pink & Green 1908

                      mjwinsmith's avatar - moon
                      100

                      United States
                      Member #391
                      June 8, 2002
                      18200 Posts
                      Online

                      If you have any elderly relatives please check on them to make sure they are not being scammed.

                      I Agree!

                      The best advice yet, a good defense is a strong offense. Sit down with your love ones and advise them of this crap going on. The more they know up front will keep them from being a victim of these kind of scams.

                      "Don't be a Dummy, Make 'Dat Money"

                      Mjwinsmith's Blog Page:   http://blogs.lotterypost.com/mjwinsmith/

                      "How to Play My Pick-4 System": https://www.lotterypost.com/thread/306450

                      MjWin$mith's Pick-3 Magic Wheels:  https://www.lotterypost.com/thread/294295

                      Pick-3 for Dummies (Best 10 of 40) Table 3 Results: https://www.lotterypost.com/thread/323117

                      "The Palindromes are coming, the Palindromes are coming" https://www.lotterypost.com/thread/203353

                        cbr$'s avatar - maren
                        100
                        Cordova,Al.
                        United States
                        Member #104478
                        January 15, 2011
                        11420 Posts
                        Offline

                        The telephone call came from out of the blue. The man on the line told the 83-year-old retired schoolteacher she had won a substantial lottery prize. All that was required to claim the windfall was to pay taxes and other fees.

                        Before it was over, the victim — a Virginia resident who had meticulously saved for her retirement — was out more than $500,000 in a scam that has become all too familiar among the elderly.

                        The criminals behind these lottery frauds and other telemarketing scams prey on senior citizens for a variety of reasons, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent John Gardner, who investigated the woman's case out of the FBI's Washington Field Office and eventually helped put the Jamaican man who victimized her behind bars.

                        "The first thing to know is that lottery scammers have no empathy for the elderly," Gardner said. "For them, it's all about the money." Seniors can be lured into the scam because they have financial difficulties, or they might have enough for themselves but want to leave a legacy for their children. Some may be suffering from mental decline or dementia. "Others are so lonely, they just want someone to talk to," Gardner explained. "Some scammers become 'best friends' with their victims."

                        There is also the issue of technology. The criminals — many who carry out their crimes from Jamaica — use Internet tools to mask their calls so they appear to be coming from U.S. numbers with particular area codes, such as Las Vegas.

                        "Elderly people grew up at a time when people weren't defrauding people over the phone," Gardner said. "They are not aware of these Internet masking technologies and are generally not suspicious when the telephone rings."

                        The fraudsters are as persuasive as they are sophisticated. "The Jamaican lottery scammers are like an organized cyber crime group," Gardner said. "They are closely knit, highly structured, and have U.S. associates — money mules — who help launder their money."

                        The scammers who make the calls speak excellent English and use well-practiced scripts complete with rebuttals. They are experienced and extremely manipulative. To target victims of a certain age, they buy lead lists that are widely available online.

                        Gardner received the Virginia woman's complaint in 2011. The ensuing investigation eventually resulted in the identification of seven subjects, all of whom were charged in connection with the lottery scheme. Six of those individuals have been convicted, and one is a fugitive. The ringleader, Paul Laing, 31, of Sandy Bay, Jamaica, was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for his leadership role in the scheme.

                        Laing pled guilty in October 2015, admitting that he defrauded numerous elderly victims, including the woman from Virginia who lost her life savings. Laing instructed victims to send funds through wire transfers, the U.S. mail, and other means directly to him in Jamaica or to co-conspirators in the U.S. Those co-conspirators — the money mules — kept a portion of the proceeds and transferred the rest to Laing. The illicit funds ran to hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 23 known victims, Gardner said, adding that there were likely many more victims who never came forward.

                        Don't Fall Victim to Lottery Scams

                        The Federal Trade Commission — the nation's consumer protection agency — offers the following advice to avoid falling victim to lottery scams and other telemarketing frauds:

                        • Don't pay money to collect supposed lottery or sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect, you are not winning, you are buying. Legitimate sweepstakes don't require you to pay insurance, taxes, or shipping and handling fees to collect your prize.
                        • Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money's been sent, there's very little chance of recovery. Likewise, resist any push to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you've been cheated.
                        • Remember that phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology allows scammers to disguise their area code so it looks like they're calling from your local area, but they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

                        You don't have to be elderly to fall into one of these scams. A friend receive a very notice that she had win some prize in the Irish lottery. She was all excited, she show us the letter she made the call. She just gotten back from a over sea job assignment. She put the call on speaker so we could all hear what they had to said. Of course it finish came around to the amount of money she need to wire them to claim her prize from alleged jackpot.                  We ask her [3] questions. {1} Do you remember purchasing any tickets at any time while you were their.  {NO] [2] Did you keep any one permission to use your name + information as a contact person. {NO} #{3} Did you fill out or do any surveys, what they can say you were randomly selected as the winners. She had take a quick survey. We told her, when they call back tell them to take out the winning. She did it. 

                          OneTrickpony's avatar - rocking horse.jpg

                          United States
                          Member #167652
                          July 25, 2015
                          118 Posts
                          Offline

                          My neighbors elderly mother was scammed by phone a few years ago.  Don't know by whom, but all of her social security money was taken out of her bank account, I mean everything, and she had no money for food.  She was so embarrassed and sick with worry after she discovered that she was fooled, that she told no one, not even her own daughter.  My neighbor found her mother unresponsive and rushed her to the hospital.  That's when she found out the story of why her mother wasn't getting enough nourishment.

                          Remember back in the old West, when someone stole a horse they hung the horse-thief? Taking the food out of elderly people's mouths (their money) is as bad as stealing their horse and leaving them to die in the desert in my humble opinion.

                            grwurston's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
                            Retired.
                            In front of my computer.
                            United States
                            Member #90247
                            April 24, 2010
                            9867 Posts
                            Offline

                            If you have any elderly relatives please check on them to make sure they are not being scammed.

                            I Agree! 100% 

                            If they are getting a lot of sweepstakes letters in the mail it is definitely a red flag. Chances are they answered one or more of them and sent a check. Once that happens their name is put on mailing lists. And they will be swamped with them.

                            Another thing to watch out for are magazine subscription offers that have a sweepstakes entry with them. It's the same thing. Subcsribe to one and you get swamped with magazines.

                            Be aware that a lot of magazine subscription services are ripoffs. They are basically a middleman between you and the magazine. They may charge $89 for a 2 year subscription, but if you deal with the magazine directly the subscription is maybe $45 for 2 years. Watch out for the high pressure sales pitch, usually 48 or 60 months for XXX amount of $$. Then after 12 months the renewal post cards start coming. And you're thinking, I thought it was for 60 months.  It was. 12 months for the first magazine, 12 months for the second, etc.

                            Also, a lot of them use what they call "automatic renewals."  Basically, they keep renewing your subscription untill YOU tell them to cancel. Problem is, often times you have to go to a website to do it, and a lot of elderly do not have computers, or internet service. Writing "Please Cancel," on the renewal form doesn't always work either. They will cancel that magazine and just send them another.

                            So bottom line, keep an eye on your elderly relatives. Stay involved and stay diligent so they don't get unknowingly ripped off.

                            "You can observe a lot just by watching." Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame baseball player.

                            The numbers will tell you what numbers to play. Pay attention to the numbers.