For Release on November 28, 2018
Cherie Bourlard, Deputy District Attorney
Elder Fraud Unit
DA’S OFFICE WARNS RESIDENTS ABOUT LOTTERY SCAM
You may have just won the lottery, but it’s more likely that you may have just been scammed. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is warning residents to be careful not to fall prey to the “Advanced Fee Lottery Scam.” Scammers are actively working in Santa Clara County right now and recently stole more than $50,000 from an elderly Morgan Hill man.
A quick and comprehensive investigation by the Morgan Hill Police and the District Attorney’s Office ended up with an outcome almost as a rare as a winning ticket: The victim got back almost all of his money.
The scam works like this: You get a call saying that you have won some sort of sweepstakes or lottery. The caller explains that in order to get the substantial winnings, you need to quickly send a sum of money that will cover fees or taxes. Although the victim sends the money, they never receive the winnings.
“We all want to win the lottery. Unfortunately, the odds of losing your life savings to a criminal are higher,” Prosecutor Cherie Bourlard said. “Don’t agree to pay anything upfront for a lottery or sweepstakes, ever.”
Some tips to recognize the scam:
- All bona fide sweepstakes do not require money up-front.
- Companies like Publishers Clearing House never contact winners by telephone or email. Their policy to contact winners is by way of U.S. mail.
- If you’ve never entered a sweepstakes, then you should not be a winner.
What to do if you have been contacted and/or have paid money:
- Confirm what is being told to you by trying to contact the company by independent means. Ask for the name of the company. Call Law Enforcement or the District Attorney’s Office to see if this is legitimate.
- If you have sent money, and realize you have been scammed, immediately call your bank or wiring company to see if the transfer of funds can be reversed.
- The criminals behind this scam are generally offshore, utilizing local “money mules” to insulate themselves from detection. Thus, call your local law enforcement agency, or the District Attorney’s Office Elder Fraud Unit Hotline 1-855-DA-Elder (1-855-323-5337) to report this.
- Others can report their suspicions about an elder being victimized to the Santa Clara County Adult Protective Services Agency at 1-800-414-2002. Reports can be confidential.