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Foreign Lottery Scams Making Big Comeback

Mar 17, 2004, 5:06 am

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Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Foreign Lottery Scams Making Big Comeback

It starts with a postcard, a phone call -- maybe even an email -- telling you you've just won millions in a foreign lottery. It's a scam that's went underground for a while, but lately has made a comeback -- in a big way.

"This one here is from the Euro lottery," said Daniel Dujardin.

Dujardin, 70, says it was a postcard that first hooked him in.

"'You're eligible for certain amount, thousands of millions of dollars.'" 
But of course, there was a catch.

"Oh, they want money up front either for taxes ... or insurance was one of them," Dujardin said.

So he sent in the cash, more than $1,500. He never saw his promised winnings, but that didn't stop him from trying again and again.

"About $50 a month over about a period of three years," he said.

In all, he estimates he's lost $5,000 to foreign lottery scams."

Asked why he did it, Dujardin replied, "Greed. Just plain greed."

"Cross border lottery scams are definitely one of the hotter complaints," said Sharon Nelson.

Nelson is head of the Consumer Fraud division of the Washington Attorney General's office.  She says you never need to pay money to get a prize.

Even so, Washington residents are especially vulnerable.

"You see more of this activity in the border states," Nelson said. "It's easier for scam artists to be across borders, harder to reach them, harder to find their assets."

In the meantime, Daniel Dujardin has sworn off spending money on sweepstakes offers.  But the experience has left a legacy.

Just one day's worth of mail brings dozens of shady schemes to steal even more of his savings.

His advice?

"They'll say anything to get your money," he said. "If they call you, don't go there -- period."

Dujardin tells us the scam artists he's dealt with have posed as U.S. Customs agents, IRS agents and agents from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Needless to say, government agents never call you to tell you have "winnings" in a lottery.


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