Foreign lottery scam targeting Pennsylvanians

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MIDDLETOWN, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A lottery scam originating in Jamaica is targeting residents of Pennsylvania, the state lottery agency says.

According to the Pennsylvania Lottery, several callers have reported receiving a call from a person with a Caribbean accent. The victim of the scam is then told that they are a winner of a fictitious Mega Millions sweepstakes or that they have won a prize from another Lottery game with a well-known name. The criminal then encourages the person on the line to make a payment for taxes or other costs but the prize is never paid.

“Unfortunately, these types of scams are quite common especially during times of crisis, such as a pandemic, when people may be vulnerable,” Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko said in a statement. “It’s important to know that the Pennsylvania Lottery will only contact players if they won a Second-Chance Drawing, a giveaway into which a player may have submitted an entry, or to collect their winning story. We never call or email people at random.”

The Pennsylvania lottery says scammers often claim they represent a well-known organization and offer made-up information to try to sound legitimate. These scam operators are often located offshore, beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Some set up fake websites and spoof phone numbers to appear as if they are originating from a local area code.

The Pennsylvania Lottery says other warning signs of a scam include:

  • If you are told to buy a pre-paid debit card to pay an up-front “processing fee” or taxes this is a major hallmark of a scam.
  • If you are asked for personal financial information, such as bank account routing numbers.
  • If you`re told the supposed prize is in pounds, euros, or anything other than dollars.
  • If an e-mail contains poor grammar or misspellings, or if a caller states they are or sounds as if they could be calling from outside the United States.
  • If you are instructed to keep the news of your supposed “win” a secret.
  • If you are told that you can “verify” the prize by calling a certain number. That number may be part of the scam. Instead of calling it, look up the lottery or organization on your own to find out its real contact information, then call and ask to speak with security.
  • “We encourage players who may receive suspicious lottery-related calls or emails to contact us and we can answer any questions they may have,” Svitko said. “Our website contains a contact page to help players reach our headquarters office and our area offices across Pennsylvania.”

The Pennsylvania Lottery’s website, www.palottery.com, offers a variety of Player Security tips to educate consumers about ways to avoid email, telephone and social media scams.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information on fake lottery and other scams. To file a complaint or get free information call toll-free, 1-877-382-4357. If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your local police, sheriff`s office or state police.

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