The story is true, but the names have been changed to defraud the innocent. It may sound like the start of an episode of Dragnet, but it's the true story of how scammers were able to con an elderly man out of $80,000 and many more out of their hard earned money. According to a warning from the Better Business Bureau, which was also reported by MSNBC, scammers used the Better Business Bureau name -- and the names of actual BBB employees -- to trick consumers into wiring money to claim their lottery winnings.
When the individuals wired their "processing" fee to the lottery officials they immediately lost their money and worse, gained a reputation among scammers as a person who could be conned. A reformed scammer recently told the Scam Detectives Website that responding to an email or paying any amount of money would place you on a list for additional scams ranging from similar lottery and advance fee fraud to scams that claim they can recover your money ... for a small processing fee of course.
In hindsight it's easy to wonder how people fall for these scams, but oftentimes they target the elderly and take advantage of their trust of organizations like the Better Business Bureau. Also, by using the names actual contests, like the Publisher's Clearing House, they are able to trick individuals who may have replied to be part of a real lottery.
"People with elderly parents and grandparents should talk to them about their mail," said Alison Southwick, a spokesperson for the Council of the Better Business Bureau, in a phone interview. Southwick recommends explaining that these common scams and fake lottery notifications look incredibly real. Furthermore, ask them to share the information with you before they take any action so that you can both make sure the winnings are legitimate.
In this case, the scammers were brazen enough to pose as members of the Better Business Bureau and send people with concerns to the BBB website to see the real employee bio. Just as you shouldn't respond to emails asking for personal information by calling the number they provide, don't take the caller's word as truth when dealing with a potential lottery win. If you have concerns, call the organization directly from a phone number you find in the phone book or on the company's Website.
The best advice for avoiding a costly loss from a fake lottery scam, or any other for that matter, comes from Southwick: "Never pay money to get money and never wire money to someone you don't know." Truer words.
This video is from the UK, but it still shows how your money goes toward paying for scammers to live the high life.
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