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Man loses $41,000 in sweepstakes scam

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Man loses $41,000 in sweepstakes scam

A 28-year-old Franklin, New Jersey man got a letter in the mail indicating he had won more than $600,000 in Spain's El Gordo Sweepstakes Lottery program.  But over a two-week period, that Franklin man wound up withdrawing money from his bank account, taking cash advances on his credit card, borrowing from family and losing about $41,000 to the lottery scam.

And police say it's unlikely the money will ever be recovered.

Now the warehouse worker, who asked that his name not be used, is taking out a home equity loan so he can repay the money he borrowed from his credit card, his sister and his brother-in-law. He said he is having trouble sleeping at night and no longer knows who to trust.

"It's a lot of money," he said. "I don't know what to think. It's terrible. I don't know who to believe anymore."

Detective Pat Colligan said the con used to swindle the Franklin man out of his money is a variation on a common scheme. In many cases, victims receive letters or e-mails from people who say they need to get money out of their own country, so they offer to hand over a percentage of cash in exchange for help.

In this case, the Franklin man received a letter in January that appeared to be from Madrid, Spain.

It said he'd won third prize in El Gordo (Spanish for "the fat one") lottery. The con artists then gave the victim the name and Web site of a bank that was supposed to be in Barcelona, but police believe it was a fraudulent Web site. The victim was also given a phone number to contact officials about his supposed prize, police said.

The victim spoke with a man who requested personal information. The victim gave it to him.

The con artists also sent a letter that appeared to be from the Federal Ministry of Finance of Madrid, Spain, but it was filled with misspellings, often a tip-off to a con, said Colligan.

The man was told he needed to pay a 2 percent tax on his winnings, a little more than $12,000, so he sent the cash, police said.

Then he received a letter that was supposed to be from a Swiss bank, saying the financial institution had the lottery winnings, but the Franklin man had not meet the financial obligations for the release of the funds.

The requests for cash continued until he dventually wired $15,000 of his own cash, $15,000 from a cash advance on a credit card, and about $11,000 he borrowed from family members, said Colligan.

He wired the funds to Italy between Feb. 3 and Feb. 20, and he also wound up sending his date of birth, Social Security number and information about his bank and next of kin.

The victim's brother called police on Feb. 27.

Colligan said police are forwarding the information they collected about the case to federal postal inspectors.

But the detective said police are faced with several problems: they have limited subpoena power outside of the United States; the telephone numbers used in the scams are based in foreign countries and are virtually impossible to trace; and the wire transfers add to the anonymity because anyone can enter an overseas wire service office with fake identification to pick up cash.

The victim said his wife tried to stop him from sending money, but he said each time he paid, he was made to feel he would get his lottery winnings the next day.

"You keep paying them, and you never get the money," he said.

He also said he does not want other people to go through what he did.

"If you get that (sort of letter), if it's not certified, just throw it out -- it's junk mail," he said.

Police say consumers should suspect a scam if:

- Someone asks for money as a condition of receiving cash. Letters contain many misspellings and grammatical errors.

- They are asked to wire money to a bank. There should be no need to wire cash when dealing with legitimate banks, even those overseas, because a consumer's own bank should be able to send funds to legitimate institutions.

- Police also warn that telephone numbers that appear to have U.S. area codes can be connected to overseas accounts.


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7 comments. Last comment 13 years ago by LottoBuddy.
Page 1 of 1

United States
Member #972
December 30, 2002
467 Posts
Posted: March 5, 2004, 8:28 am - IP Logged

And people fall for these things even after story after story like this appears. Do people ever wonder how they've "won" a lottery they didn't buy a ticket for? Are some people so dumb they deserve to lose their money?

    Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
    Chief Bottle Washer
    New Jersey
    United States
    Member #1
    May 31, 2000
    23837 Posts
    Posted: March 5, 2004, 10:09 am - IP Logged

    I like to think it's people being gullible rather than stupid.  Smart people can make stupid mistakes.  I keep posting these stories in the hope that trusting people will think twice before giving their money to a scammer.


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      whodeani's avatar - lightening

      United States
      Member #2484
      October 9, 2003
      212 Posts
      Posted: March 5, 2004, 11:41 am - IP Logged

      How would a U.S. resident qualify for a lottery in Spain anyway? You obviously don't need to buy tickets for this lottery so  I would think it would have to be attached to your social security number or whatever they use over there in Spain. If this is the case, then I would think only Spanish residents would qualify. The red flags should have went up like crazy for this guy.

        fja's avatar - gnome1

        United States
        Member #91
        January 19, 2002
        12479 Posts
        Posted: March 5, 2004, 1:27 pm - IP Logged

        The dream of tripleing your money sometimes is to much to resist for some people....even if it cost them a couple of thousand diollars to do it....its too tempting for some people to just let pass....the dream becomes so powerful it consumes the ability to think straight...

        "Everybody has to believe in something...I believe I'll have another beer!"   = W.C.Fields                      

          United States
          Member #1759
          June 29, 2003
          1156 Posts
          Posted: March 5, 2004, 5:35 pm - IP Logged

          The obvious thing that it was a scam was he had to send them money.You don't send money if you won a Lottery Jackpot you only spend money on the tickets.Even if you win a Car or House in a Sweepstakes I think you only pay taxes on it but you verify everything first to make sure it's not a scam.When I get letters like that in the mail I send them a letter saying "*SS HOLE" in nice big letters.

            Member #3032
            December 16, 2003
            1081 Posts
            Posted: March 7, 2004, 3:52 am - IP Logged

            I dreamt about being scamed...

              LottoBuddy's avatar - tails

              Member #3722
              February 15, 2004
              46 Posts
              Posted: March 8, 2004, 2:57 pm - IP Logged

              Like Martha Stewart, these scam artists should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and put in jail.  Unfortunately, they are able to take advantage of people's greed and stupidity to steal millions.  It is usually senior citizens that are targetted, but this warehouse worker was too dumb to do any due diligence or listen to his wife's common sense.