Lotto scams resurface locally

Published 12:57 am Saturday, November 1, 2008

Although the tricks of Halloween might be over, the tricks of scammers continue throughout the whole year, especially here lately.

Recent scams reported to the Clanton Police Department state in a letter that the recipients are winners in contests such as the “All-American Sweepstakes,” “Mega Millions Drawing” or “Sweepstakes and Lottery.”

Clanton Police investigator Keith Maddox said the dead giveaway that this is a scam is when the company asks the victim to wire money back through a service like Money Gram to them as a “tax payment” on the winnings.

“The check they send you may be a real check, but the account number isn’t valid,” Maddox said. “Once you wire them the money, then it goes out of the country, and we can’t get it back.”

Many of these scams get victims to wire money to accounts in the U.S., but then they are immediately wired through several different accounts and could end up in African countries.

Luckily, the aforementioned scams didn’t cost any local residents any money because they recognized immediately that they were scams. Other residents haven’t been as lucky. In one case that Clanton Police has investigated, the victim lost $8,000.

“If you have to send them money to get your prize, then it’s a scam,” Maddox said. “Never send them money.”

One other recommendation is to ask yourself, “Did I enter this lottery?”

“You generally have to do something to enter a drawing or a lottery. If you didn’t have to do anything to win, then it’s probably a scam,” he said.

Maddox said no one group of people is more susceptible to the scams than any other group. He’s had cases that involved people age 30 and up.

Although he will never participate in one of these scams, Maddox recommends that you should let the check clear the bank first before any money is spent.

“If you think it’s a valid check, put it in the bank and give it a week or so before you spend anything,” Maddox said.

– Brent Maze can be reached at