Scammers find new ways to trick folks

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 9:10pm
Staff reports

It seems scammers are always looking for new tricks and refining old ones to get people to give up their hard-earned money and personal information.

In Tennessee, residents are reporting more solicitations and offers related to foreign lotteries. The scam has been around for years, but this version seems so believable many people fall victim.

The Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs says the scam involves consumers receiving may receive notification via telephone, email or direct mail, telling them they have won foreign lotteries from Canada and as far away as Europe.

A consumer who receives a lottery notification letter in the mail usually finds a check enclosed. The letter claims the consumer has won and asks him or her to cash the check and to wire or mail a portion of the fake winnings back to cover supposed insurance and fees.

To make the deal seem even more authentic a contact name and phone number may even be provided “to assist with verification and processing.”

The checks look legitimate, and many consumers will cash them — never suspecting that the checks are counterfeit. Before the check clears, the consumer uses money already in his account to wire the fees back to the third party. Ultimately, once the check does not clear the bank, the consumer is financially responsible for it.

It may seem like there is a warning about a new Internet scam every week, but authorities urge residents to remain vigilant in protecting their personal information.

Consumer affairs offers these words of caution:

• Ignore all mail, email and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. Federal law prohibits mailing lottery tickets, ads or payments to purchase tickets in a foreign lottery.

• Don’t give out personal information, including account numbers, to a salesperson.

• If you buy a foreign lottery ticket, you may land on a “suckers list” that crooks trade.

• There is no legitimate reason why someone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire or send money in return.

• No legitimate contest will make you pay a fee to collect a prize.

• You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.