SOURCE: United States Postal Inspection Service

March 08, 2012 11:49 ET

Protect Your Family Against Foreign Lottery Fraud

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Mar 8, 2012) - (Family Features) Every year thousands of Americans fall prey to scammers, with the elderly and disabled being the most vulnerable to their schemes. Luckily, there are safeguards in place to protect you, and to provide crucial guidance for spotting scams that could be targeting your family. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), founded by Benjamin Franklin, is the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. It works every day to stop these criminals from the millions of attempts they make to scam Americans.

During National Consumer Protection Week, March 4 to 12, USPIS is making an extra effort to help you protect yourself. One of the most prevalent scams around is the Foreign Lottery Fraud, from as far away as Australia and Europe.

Scam operators target U.S. consumers by phone, Internet and direct mail to buy into high-stakes foreign lotteries. This is not only illegal, it also robs millions of Americans of billions of dollars. Lottery hustlers use victims' bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

Tips and warning signs to protect yourself from foreign lottery fraud
Use these tips to ensure you and your family are protected against fraud. Remember to inform family members to look out for the following signs.

There are two main techniques used in a foreign lottery scam:

  • They tell you that you've won and only need to send a few hundred dollars to claim your prize.
  • They ask you to buy tickets to enter a foreign lottery, where the odds are better.

Either way you can't win.

If you are a caretaker to someone with diminished mental capacity, keep a close eye on warning signs that they have fallen prey to scammers. According to the USPIS these criminals are "deliberately targeting victims with dementia."

Signs include:

  • Checks written or money wired internationally
  • A telephone that rings constantly
  • A stack of lottery or sweepstakes entries
  • Calls from foreign countries, especially if they're calling your elderly family members

Scammers are constantly updating their methods:
Criminals are increasingly using new technology like VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and Caller-ID "spoofing," making it seem like the call is coming from the U.S. or even a government agency.

For more information on how to protect yourself and your family, or to report a fraud, go to www.deliveringtrust.com.

USPIS:
The United States Postal Inspection Service, founded by Benjamin Franklin, is one of our country's oldest federal law enforcement agencies. Postal Inspectors have a long, proud, and successful history of fighting criminals who attack our nation's postal system and misuse it to defraud, endanger, or otherwise threaten the American public. The Postal Inspection Service enforces more than 200 federal laws related to crime that adversely affects or fraudulently uses the U.S. Mail and postal system. Learn more at postalinspectors.uspis.gov or visit "Postal Inspectors: The Silent Service," a special exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, also online at www.postalmuseum.si.edu/inspectors/index.html.

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