NASHVILLE -The Tennessee Lottery today warned the public of a scam that claims to be related to the Lottery’s games. In recent weeks, a fraudulent letter claiming that the recipient has won a large sum of money from the “Tennessee Lottery Commission” has been sent to residents of Mississippi and possibly other states. The letter claims to be from a “financial claim representative” of an investment group in California.
This scam asserts that a cash prize of $600,000 will be paid out over 30 years unless the recipient pays a fee to receive their winnings in one lump sum. Accompanying the letter is a counterfeit check, which supposedly covers this fee. However, the letter claims that the recipient must first telephone the investment group to “activate the check.” During this phone call, victims are asked to provide sensitive bank account information and/or additional sums of money up front to process the prize.
This scam is not the first of its kind. According to a recent release, the FBI in Jackson, Miss. is currently investigating similar telephone scams targeting elderly residents of the state. In these scams, the caller claims to be an attorney who must settle the payout of funds won by the victim in some type of Canadian or other foreign lottery or sweepstakes. The FBI says amounts of reported bogus winnings vary from $50,000 to $500,000 and that the scammers require funds be paid up front in order to move the money through customs.
According to the FBI release, between January 1, 2004 and June 30, 2004, the FBI estimates that 340 United States victims lost approximately $2,250,000 to these fraudulent telemarketers.
The common factor in all of these scams is that the scammers ask for money up front in order to receive a larger sum of lottery or sweepstakes winnings. David Jennings, Vice President of Security for the Tennessee Lottery, said the Lottery will never ask for funds to claim a prize. “Any taxes or other legitimate fees will be taken out of the prize winnings when the check is issued. No out of pocket fees are ever assigned to any prize.”
Tennessee Lottery officials urge players to call their Player Hotline if they are ever in doubt regarding a prize or letter from the Tennessee Lottery. The hotline can be reached at (877) 786-7529 or (615) 254-4946 for those calling within the Metro Nashville area.
If you feel you have been the victim of a lottery scam, please call the Attorney General's office at (615) 741-3491, or your local FBI office.
The Tennessee Lottery began selling its first instant tickets on Jan. 20, 2004. At the end of its first fiscal year, after just five months and 12 days of ticket sales, the Lottery had raised more than $123 million for education. All Tennessee Lottery profits will go to pay for specific education programs in the state, which initially include the HOPE Scholarship program.
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