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July 31, 2012

Lottery Warns Consumers to by Wary of ‘Ever-Present’ Lottery Scams

SPRINGFIELD, IL—Lottery officials today warned consumers to be on guard for ever- present Lottery scams that ultimately solicit funds from innocent consumers duped into believing they have won a large Lottery prize.  Officials said a Chicago woman contacted the Illinois Lottery late last week about a $26 million foreign lottery prize she was told via email she had won, only to learn it was a scam and the $7,000 she had paid to scammers would likely never be returned.

Other routine scam attempts include sending what appears to be a legitimate check to consumers though the U.S. postal service, with an attached letter asking the consumer to send hundreds of dollars—or more—to release the funds on the bogus check.

Yet another recent scam involves imposters posing as “Mega Millions” game representatives who contact consumers via phone and alert them to an alleged win that requires the consumer to purchase a “tax release” stamp or other bogus fees to release the funds.

“I would urge everyone to beware that lottery scammers will try any means to dupe consumers,” said Lottery Supt. Michael Jones. “Email is the most prevalent initial fraudulent contact, but scammers also use the telephone, letters sent via US mail--even conversations on the street--to convince people that they represent lotteries or legitimate lottery payment mechanisms.  Remember, the Illinois Lottery does not contact you about prizes or prize fulfillments; you must contact us to claim a prize. If anyone attempts these kinds of fraudulent contacts, let us know immediately.”

Lottery prizes up to $600 can be claimed at most Lottery retail locations; prizes over $600 may be submitted to one of five Lottery prize centers located across Illinois, including the Lottery’s claims office in Springfield. The Lottery does periodically offer 2nd-chance drawings, under which players who submit non-winning tickets can win prizes. These promotions are explained in detail on the lottery’s website: www.illinoislottery.com, according to Lottery spokesman Mike Lang.

In the case of the Chicago woman duped out of $7,000, Lang said she was initially contacted via an email two weeks ago that indicated she had a multi-million-dollar prize from an overseas Lottery, complete with a luxury car.  After several emails, the scammers began calling the 69-year-old woman multiple times a day, eventually asking her to make a series of payments (in increments of $100 to $400) to release the car from customs, pay auto transport fees, release the multi-million dollar check for processing, etc. 

After getting suspicious of the long delays and continued payments, the woman contacted a Lottery representative who immediately advised her to stop making payments and put her in touch with law enforcement officials. The Lottery then issued a series of scam alerts to the public via its social media channels.

“This type of fraud has been around for many years,” said Lang. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When in doubt, please contact us.” Players can call 217-524-5158, or email Lang directly at mike.lang@illinois.gov.  

For more scam-prevention information, visit the “Protect Yourself” section of the Illinois Lottery Web site at the following link: http://illinoislottery.com/subsections/Securityaware.htm.

Anyone with questions about Illinois Lottery games and rules can contact the Lottery Player Hotline at 800-252-1775, or visit http://www.illinoislottery.gov.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan offers an “Every Cent Counts Guide,” which include tips on how to avoid falling victim to lottery or counterfeit check scams. More information is available at the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/filecomplaint.html) which operates from three Illinois offices:  Chicago: 800-386-5438; Springfield: 800-243-0618; Carbondale; 800-243-0607

Internet fraud complaints may be filed at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx ), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Other helpful tips for protecting yourself against scammers are below:

If someone stops you on the street and says they have won a Lottery prize that cannot be claimed due to their status as a non-U.S. citizen, beware.  They will likely try to sell you the Lottery ticket (which they say is a big winner--but is not) at a discounted price, and drive you to your bank to withdraw your money to pay for the bogus ticket.  

You cannot win a lottery for which you did not buy tickets. If you receive a “winner” notice for a drawing you never entered, be suspicious. Never give money or valuables to a stranger to redeem a lottery prize. “Good faith” money or banking information is never required by the Illinois Lottery to claim a prize.

Be dubious of anyone claiming to be a Lottery official giving away money or merchandise.  The only possible exception would be if you entered a legitimate Lottery 2nd-chance drawing (buy submitting non-winning tickets) or made a purchase on the Lottery’s internet portal. In these cases, however, the Lottery may contact you but would never ask for money in conjunction with making a claim.

Never reveal your credit card and/or bank information to anyone unless you are certain the contact is legitimate and from a reputable company with whom you have a long-term relationship. The Illinois Lottery only requires credit card information when you contact them directly to purchase or renew a Mega Millions, Lotto or Little Lotto subscription.

If you receive a telephone call from a direct marketer who promises instant lottery prizes, hang up. No lotteries in the U.S., including the Illinois Lottery, conduct business in this manner.


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