If you own a phone or a computer, and most of us do, you can expect someone to try to swindle you. If you tried to collect on all of the lotteries tricksters have told you that you have won, you would be filthy rich!
How do you learn about your good fortune? Well, chances are you have been called, notified online, or via U.S. mail. It doesn't matter that you never bought a lottery ticket and entered a contest, the victimizer will tell you that you are a winner and all you need to do to collect is furnish personal information or send in a fee for processing the prize.
Some of these lotteries emanate in foreign lands and you are told you won because your email address has been chosen. It is sad, but there are gullible individuals who fall for this scheme. Anxious to get rich, suckers send personal information and money to strangers in far away places. You might like to know that U.S. Code T.18, Part l, Chapter 95 makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to participate in foreign lotteries. And, it is also illegal to sell lottery tickets over the internet.
So, those who tell you that you have won a foreign lottery and ask that you pay a transfer fee, custom duties, etc., before receiving the prize are clearly con men or women. Do not, and I repeat, do not send money to collect so-called winnings. If you do, consider yourself scammed.
Scammers also have other motives. They may be stealing your identity from a drivers license, Social Security or credit card information you furnish to claim your prize. If they ask that you sign a receipt for the prize that is coming to you, they may only want your signature so they can use it for other illegal activities. Scammers like to obtain signatures for fake documents that they prepare. Investigators frequently receive information of scam artists working out of Nigeria, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Europe. These defrauders use computers, telephones and the U.S. mail to entice innocent citizens in buying into scams.
Most people have learned to be cautious, but there is one thing we all can remember in encounters with scammers. "If you did not enter a lottery and buy a ticket, you cannot be a winner" no matter who tries to trick you. Anyone who wants you to send money to collect a prize is not legitimate. A legitimate lottery does not require payment of fees for winners. You notify them of a win -- not the other way around!
Remember, there are many swindlers out there. Be alert and do not become one of their victims. Report suspicious persons to your local police, Attorney General, Postmaster, or the Federal Trade Commission.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.