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April Scam of the Month: Foreign Lottery Scams

APRIL SCAM OF THE MONTH:
FOREIGN LOTTERY SCAMS

Attorney General Mark Barnett is warning South Dakota consumers this month of foreign lottery scams now targeting the state. "South Dakotans are being hit hard by foreign lottery scams," Barnett said. "Telemarketers promise consumers thousands and sometimes millions of dollars. In the end, however, the consumer is usually out thousands."

Scam operators, often based in Canada or Australia, entice unsuspecting consumers via telephone or direct mail to purchase foreign lottery tickets or foreign bonds. A typical scenario begins with a caller suggesting the target has won or could be a winner of a lottery or jackpot, and to collect his winnings, he must submit "custom taxes," "duty fees," or other bogus fees in order to claim the prize. Once the consumer agrees to submit the fees or hands over bank or credit card account numbers, they are generally out thousands of dollars.

"We had one gentleman who was told he won $7 million in an Australian Lottery Jackpot, and all he had to do was submit $7,450 for duty taxes," Barnett said. "Fortunately his local banker encouraged him to contact us before sending his money away."

Barnett offers the following tips to help consumers avoid foreign lottery scams:

  • Don’t play foreign lotteries. They are against the law and usually scams.    
  • Never wire money to anyone unless you are absolutely sure of the receiver. Once you do so, it’s probably gone.    
  • Don’t give out your credit card or bank account numbers.    
  • It is illegal to require consumers to pay any amount of money to claim a prize. As for taxes, they are paid to the Internal Revenue Service directly.    
  • Consumers who enter sweepstakes or other foreign lotteries are especially vulnerable. Their names will be placed on target lists that are bought and sold by telemarketers.    
  • If you or a family member encounter a foreign lottery offer, call the Division of Consumer Protection before sending away your money.

Consumers with questions, concerns, or complaints about Internet scams or any scams are encouraged to contact Barnett’s Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-300-1986. Additional consumer protection information is also available at the Attorney General’s website (www.state.sd.us/atg).