A reader: My grandmother is 81. I help her with light housekeeping, getting her groceries and anything else she needs. The reason I am writing to you is that she keeps getting these foreign lottery checks in the mail. I think Grandma is a pretty good judge of things. I keep telling her that these checks are fake. Sometimes the checks look so real my Grandma thinks they might be. How can I convince her that these checks are really fake? I’m afraid she may actually try to contact one of the scammers and have them scam her. What do you think?
Action Line: What a fantastic grandchild you are. You and your grandmother are very lucky to have one another. To answer your question, I have one question for Grandma: How can you win a lottery you did not enter? Don’t believe that someone is going to give you $1 million in a lottery that you didn’t enter. Unfortunately, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. You are absolutely correct, however, that the scam artists have discovered ways to make the checks look totally legitimate, complete with watermarks and a handwritten signature. Sometimes the fake checks look so real it is difficult for banks to know.
Official state-run lotteries are the only lotteries which are legal in the United States. Under federal law, it is generally unlawful to send lottery material through the mail. Foreign lotteries violate U.S. Postal Service statutes, although they may not violate the statutes of the country from which they originate.
If you feel that you have received lottery information that violates postal lottery statutes, you can turn the information over to the Better Business Bureau Of The San Joaquin Valley at 4201 W. Shaw, Ste. 107, Fresno CA 93722; (800) 675-8118; or to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Attn: Fraud Complaint Section, 222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1250, Chicago, IL 60606-6100; (800)372-8347. If you receive your foreign lottery offer by email, forward it to www.ic3.gov without opening it.
You should also know that the scammers of the world are a friendly bunch and they like to share information. If you respond to one foreign lottery offer, you should absolutely expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment “opportunities.” Your name will be placed on “sucker lists” that telemarketers buy and sell. Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch. Don’t pay for a free prize or gift, processing fees, customs fees, travel expenses or administrative costs or any other label they use to get you to send money. Prizes that require an upfront fee are against U.S. law.
The bottom line: Ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions.