Robb Hicken: Don't fall for lottery scam calls

May 1, 2014 

The Associated Press reported that 20 people in Kingston, Jamaica, were arrested for their suspected involvement in a multimillion-dollar lottery scam that targeted mostly elderly Americans, cheating them out of their savings.

The fraudsters making the calls told people they had won an international lottery and the scammers demanded immediate payment to cover the taxes. Authorities seized laptops, documents and one gun following Friday's arrests. It's believed at least $300 million a year is stolen from U.S. residents in this scam.

Despite the arrests, it didn't stop the calls from coming. On Monday morning, Better Business Bureau received a call from a Marsing woman who talked to a man with a thick accent who claimed she was a winner of an international lottery. The caller ID number was from an 876- phone number.

"He said I just needed to pay the taxes in order to receive my two-million-dollar lottery drawing," she says.

She was told "Don't hang up!" because this may be her only chance to bring home happiness and help for herself and her immediate family.

"We've been through some rough times," she says, "but when he got to the part where I needed to pay the taxes and insurance fees for deliver, I simply hung up on him."

To avoid falling victim to any sweepstakes scams, the BBB provides the following advice:

• Screen your calls. If you see a call from an 876 area code, it's very likely a scammer on the other end of the line. Beware of spoofing.

• Stay realistic. You can't win a contest you didn't enter, and if you're told you have to pay anything to collect your winnings, you haven't won anything.

• Remember, you're in charge. If you don't like the way a call is going, simply hang up.

If the calls keep coming, report them to the proper authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov), as well as the Better Business Bureau.

• Don't be bullied. Though it's important to maintain your own safety, keep in mind the majority of these calls are made from outside the country. If calls you receive become threatening in nature, report them to your local authorities immediately.

• Never wire money. Sweepstakes scams usually come with a request to wire funds for supposed fees such as insurance or taxes - don't play along.

Some scammers are now asking people to purchase Green Dot MoneyPak cards and then share the number on the back. By doing this, you're giving criminals all the information they need to drain the funds loaded onto these MoneyPaks.

BBB receives a lot of calls about spoofing - both from recipients and those being spoofed.

The scam artist will randomly choose an area code and phone number to show on the recipient's caller ID. After the scam call, recipients may dial the number that appeared on their caller ID only to find the person who answers has no idea their number is being used by a scam artist.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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