Gulfport residents have fallen prey to lottery scams that have cost them more than $10,000, according to the Gulfport Police Department.
Police are warning the public to be on the lookout for fraud schemes that employ a wide variety of methods to entrap victims. Some scams even involve materials emblazoned with the official Florida Lottery logo, making them particularly enticing.
Sgt. Thomas Woodman of the Gulfport Police Department told the Gabber that Gulfport police are currently investigating two lottery-scam cases that occurred in January this year. In one case, a victim paid out some $80,000 after being told via phone by someone affiliated with a “consumer protection bureau” that she had won a sweepstakes competition but was required to submit processing fees in order to claim her prize. In a second, similar case, the victim paid out approximately $10,000, Woodman said, adding that the company making the calls has addresses listed in Leesburg, FL, as well as Alabama.
Fraudsters have also enjoyed success by sending bogus checks in the mail and then asking recipients to provide their bank account information so the “winnings” can be deposited. Also, like in the cases listed above, potential “winners” might also be asked to pay a “processing fee,” which is another harbinger of a scam.
Woodman said it can be easy to detect a lottery or sweepstakes scam if you stop and think about it.
“If you don’t play the lottery, how can you win it?” he said. “And it’s not just the lottery – it can be anything. If you receive a call begging for money, don’t do it.”
Some lottery-scam victims have been asked to provide their personal contact info, which scam artists then use to harass them until they send money to the scammer. Another telltale is when someone gives you a lottery ticket to redeem for them; in that situation, police say, the ticket is most likely stolen.
If someone claiming to be a lottery official contacts you by email, phone or letter and asks you to provide personal information, like a social security number or credit card number, do not respond, police say. Instead, contact your nearest Florida Lottery office, the Florida Lottery’s Division of Security, or the Gulfport Police Department.
And last but not least, police say, if something sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.