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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 01, 2006
Consumer Alert: Pierce County Residents Targeted for Foreign Lottery and Counterfeit Check Scams


AG McKenna Asks Tellers for Help in Fighting Counterfeit Check Fraud

TACOMA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today warned consumers to beware of mail indicating you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. He asked bank tellers for their help in fighting counterfeit check scams.

"Once again, cons are trying to trick people into wiring money with promises of big winnings," Attorney General Rob McKenna said. "Their ploy is to convince you to send money to pay so-called taxes before you receive your big prize. But there’s never a prize and your hard-earned dollars are gone forever. The lesson here is to never wire money to a stranger."

In the past few days, at least five senior citizens in the Pierce County area have reported receiving authentic-looking checks along with a notice that they won a Swiss lottery. The seniors reported the notices to Pierce County Aging and Long Term Care.

The Attorney General’s Office has also received calls from consumers throughout the nation who have received similar solicitations. Those consumers contacted Washington after searching online for information about foreign lottery scams.

Pierce County residents received phony certificates printed on letterhead from the "National Lottery of Switzerland." The notice states: "After a successful completion of the Third Category draws of National Lotto, held in Geneva Switzerland, we are pleased to inform you of the official announcement today that you have emerged as one of the winners of the EUROPEAN INTERNATIONAL LOTTERY PROGRAMS."

Recipients are told they won $95,000. A check for $2,998 drawn on a U.S. Bank account is included to help cover a "tax and clearance fee." The notice instructs the recipient to cash the check and call a number in Nova Scotia, Canada, for further instructions.

McKenna said tellers at banks and credit unions can be a huge help in the fight against counterfeit check fraud by educating consumers about when a check is "good."

"Many consumers may not understand that when funds are available it means that the financial institution is required by law to allow its customers to withdraw the money but the customer is still responsible should the check bounce," he said. "While you may be able to deposit or cash the check, it can be weeks before the check actually clears. So before you spend that money, it’s best to wait until the financial institution can confirm the funds have been ‘collected’ from the issuing bank."

"A check in the hand is a strong lure," McKenna added. "But think twice: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. You can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t enter or buy a ticket. It’s also important to know that can’t legally play a foreign lottery in the United States.

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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432, kalexander@atg.wa.gov

 

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