Lottery scam targets veterans, senior citizens, warns district attorney

A lottery scam using the San Diego County seal appears to be targeting veterans and senior citizens, warns the district attorney’s office, which is investigating and asking additional victims to report it.

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“These scammers are using the legitimacy of a government seal to prey on vulnerable seniors who served their country. They’ve stolen at least one couple’s hard-earned savings in a brazen example of financial elder abuse,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “It can be embarrassing for people to come forward once they realize they’ve been duped, but we want to help victims and hold these heartless scam artists responsible for their crimes.”

District attorney investigators say a retired San Diego couple received several phone calls telling them they had won as much as $2.5 million in a lottery, but they needed to send insurance information and state and federal taxes before the winnings could be deposited in their bank account.

As proof of the lottery win, the couple received a faxed letter that included the official seal of the County of San Diego, as well as a photocopy of a $2.5 check made out to them. The letter thanked the victims “for their service” and said the lottery winnings would be deposited into their Navy Federal Credit Union Account once the taxes were paid.

As a result, the couple sent money grams and made bank transfers totaling more than $20,000 to various individuals, believing the money was required to receive the lottery winnings. Eventually, the couple provided their credit union account information and a Social Security number to allow the winnings to be transferred to their account, but instead the criminals emptied the couple’s savings account, stealing an additional $3,000, said the district attorney’s office.

“False lotteries are a common scam,” said Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood. “Seniors can protect themselves by always starting with the assumption that any telephone call or letter promising a prize is indeed fake, especially when there is a request for monies to be paid up front for taxes or other charges.”

To keep finances safe from scams, the district attorney’s office offered these tips:

•Sweepstakes and overseas lotteries are phony.

•Screen your calls before answering.

•Don’t be afraid to hang up on the perpetrator.

•Don’t let emotions cause you to react immediately to a phone call, letter or email.

•Always check with a professional adviser.

When people have been scammed once, their phone numbers and information are sold to other scam artists. Dumanis suggests victims consider changing their phone number to avoid an onslaught of predatory phone calls.

Additional victims of this scam or other suspected financial elder abuse can report it at 619-531-3245. Citizens are asked to call only if they have sent money to one of these scams and have not reported it to a law enforcement agency. Be prepared to leave name, contact information, including home address, and specifics about the suspected scam, said the district attorney’s office.

   
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