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Sheriff’s office: Don’t be a victim of lottery scam

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By Jenny Arnold

The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office is sending out the age-old reminder: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Maj. David Belk said the sheriff’s office has received calls about a lottery scam going out through the mail.

“This kind of thing has been going on for a while,” Belk said. “We have some people who have actually sent money to these folks.”

A Lancaster woman reported to the sheriff’s office that she received a letter notifying her that she had won $150,000 in a lottery draw in Canada.

The woman received a phony check for $4,500, and the letter said if she paid $3,750 in taxes to the tax officer listed in the letter, she would receive her lump sum of $150,000.

Belk said some banks will cash the checks, which turn out to be counterfeit. A hold is placed on the person’s account, holding them responsible for the money.

Belk noted that although the letter stated that it was a Canadian lottery, the envelope it arrived in had a Germany postmark.

Belk said the woman who reported the letter to the sheriff’s office did not fall victim to the scam.

Belk said he thinks this kind of scam is on the rise due to the economy.

If you get a lottery letter that says you must pay a fee to receive your winnings, “Throw it in the trash, just like you do all of your other junk mail,” Belk said.

Avoiding scams

The Federal Trade Commission recommends these tips to avoid being a victim of lottery scams:

- If you have to pay, it’s not a prize.

- Sponsors of legitimate contests will advertise their names prominently and gladly provide an address and toll-free number where you can contact them.

- Rules and procedures should be posted in plain  English.

- Check to see if the envelope was mailed “bulk rate,” even it is personally addressed to you.

- Scammers may want you to send your money overnight so they get it quickly and you have little chance to stop payment.

- Pay close attention to names and read the fine print.

- Do not agree to attend a sales meeting in order to win a prize.

- Remember that signing up for a legitimate sweepstakes can cause your information to be sold to other fraudulent promoters.

- Never give personal or account information over the phone or e-mail in response to a sweepstakes or lottery.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at jhartley@thelancasternews.com (803) 283-1151