Man falls prey to lottery scam

COVINGTON - Covington authorities are asking residents to more closely scrutinize their e-mails after a man reportedly became the victim of a lottery scam last week.

The victim told police he received an e-mail Nov. 13, telling him he had won $500,000 and that he needed to send a reply by e-mail with his date of birth and telephone number, according to a Covington Police Department incident report completed by Officer Stacy Cosby.

The man did as he was asked and e-mailed the unknown perpetrator back at the e-mail address winners@italiasuperlotto.it, Cosby said.

Realizing the suspect could use his personal information to start a line of credit, he called police to file an incident report.

CPD Detective Daniel Seals said that while most people realize that these e-mails are bogus and delete them from their mailboxes, there's always a small percentage that succumb to the allure of easy money.

"If you didn't enter a lottery, you didn't win a lottery," he said. "It's like people joke all the time, 'I'm gonna win that Powerball, but then I guess I would have to play first, wouldn't I?' People don't just win lotteries from their name (being) in some database out in space somewhere."

Seals said con artists are usually "phishing" when they send out these types of e-mails to see how much information they can pry out of someone.

"All you need to open some accounts ... is a name and date of birth," he said.

Depending on a perpetrator's ability to gain access to personal information, the CPD detective said most scammers are limited in what they can do without a Social Security number, but he said it is still a serious breach of personal security.

Though there has not been a spike in e-mail and other types of scams, Seals said they occur with regularity.

"We have a pretty steady flow of these (types of scams). We get a lot of calls that aren't even reports by people saying, 'Hey, you know, I was e-mailed with this or I got this in the mail' ... that kind of deal, and we tell them its a scam."

Another type of scam authorities said they see with some regularity are those that are commonly referred to as the "Nigerian Scam."

This scam usually involves people claiming to have started a church in an impoverished African nation, saying they are in need of the help of the American public to assist them.

One of the most popular ways con artists had implemented this scheme in the past was by soliciting donations over the Internet and gaining access to people's checking account or credit card numbers.

Now, however, the cons have started sending counterfeit money orders to people though the mail, enclosed with a message, asking people to cash the phony money orders for them and keep a little for themselves.

Seals said this and other types of mail scams are almost always based in another country, which makes tracking down and prosecuting those responsible difficult.

If your personal information does become compromised, Seals recommended you:

· Put out a fraud alert with all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion;

· Check your credit history for any inconsistencies;

· Close any accounts in which a fraudulent transaction has taken place.

"Jump on this quick, is what I say. Don't just make a police report and think you can sit back," Seals said. "You need to be proactive about it."

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.