|For Immediate Release||Contact: Mike Lang, Illinois Lottery 217-524-5158|
SPRINGFIELD, IL—August 23, 2012—Lottery officials today warned consumers of a familiar scam with a new twist. The latest hoax involves emails purported to be from Illinois’ recent $218.6 million Mega Millions winner; in the email the scammer says he will give $1.5 million to three lucky recipients, who, after responding to the email, will be asked to pay money to release one of the $1.5 million “gifts.”
“In the course of communicating with victims, scammers often claim to be law enforcement or government officials,” said IL Lottery Supt. Michael Jones. “This is the first case we are aware of where the scammer claims to be a big Lottery winner who is giving away part of his Lottery fortune.”
The scam email forwarded to Lottery officials yesterday from a skeptical recipient states “I won the US Mega-Millions Lottery & have decided to make a cash donation of $1.5 Million to 3 persons. Send Names, Country and a bank check will be issued in your name.” The email had the subject line “$1,500,000.00 USD CASH DONATION!”
The March 30, 2012 Mega Millions drawing resulted in three $218.6 million winners, including a winner from Red Bud, Illinois. That winner, the largest in Illinois history, garnered publicity across the globe. Given the immense publicity accorded the Red Bud win, Lottery officials said they are not surprised a scam of this nature was hatched.
Last month, the Lottery warned of another, more traditional scam involving a Chicago woman who was told via email and telephone that she won a $26 million foreign Lottery prize. In order to “release the Lottery prize” the woman made a series of payments totaling $7,000 in hopes the bogus Lottery prize would be awarded to her (it wasn’t).
“No legitimate lottery requires payment to claim a prize,” said Jones. “If a stranger contacts you via phone or email and says you won a Lottery prize, don’t believe it! It’s been said before but it bears repeating: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Other routine scam attempts include sending what appears to be a legitimate check to consumers through the U.S. postal service, with an attached letter asking the consumer to send hundreds of dollars to release the funds from the bogus check. Yet another recent scam involves imposters posing as “Mega Millions” game representatives who contact consumers via phone and alert them to an alleged win that requires the victim to purchase a “tax release” stamp or incur other bogus fees to release the funds.
Lottery prizes up to $600 can be claimed at most Lottery retail locations; prizes over $600 may be submitted to one of five Lottery prize centers located across Illinois, including the Lottery’s claims office in Springfield. The Lottery does periodically offer 2nd-chance drawings, under which players who submit non-winning tickets can win prizes. These promotions are explained in detail on the lottery’s website: www.illinoislottery.com
LATEST LOTTERY SCAM—Add OneLottery officials urge people to report scams to law enforcement and Lottery personnel.
For more scam-prevention information, visit the “Protect Yourself” section of the Illinois Lottery Web site at the following link: http://illinoislottery.com/subsections/Securityaware.htm.
Anyone with questions about Illinois Lottery games and rules can contact the Lottery Player Hotline at 800-252-1775, or visit http://www.illinoislottery.gov. Scam attempts can be reported to 217-524-5158.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan offers an “Every Cent Counts Guide,” which include tips on how to avoid falling victim to lottery or counterfeit check scams. More information is available at the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/filecomplaint.html) which operates from three Illinois offices: Chicago: 800-386-5438; Springfield: 800-243-0618; Carbondale; 800-243-0607
Internet fraud complaints may be filed at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx ), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Other helpful tips for protecting yourself against scammers are below:
If someone stops you on the street and says they have won a Lottery prize that cannot be claimed due to their status as a non-U.S. citizen, beware. They will likely try to sell you the Lottery ticket (which they say is a big winner--but is not) at a discounted price, and drive you to your bank to withdraw your money to pay for the bogus ticket.
You cannot win a lottery for which you did not buy tickets. If you receive a “winner” notice for a drawing you never entered, be suspicious. Never give money or valuables to a stranger to redeem a lottery prize. “Good faith” money or banking information is never required by the Illinois Lottery to claim a prize.
Be dubious of anyone claiming to be a Lottery official giving away money or merchandise. The only possible exception would be if you entered a legitimate Lottery 2nd-chance drawing (by submitting non-winning tickets) or made a purchase on the Lottery’s internet portal. In these cases, however, the Lottery may contact you but would never ask for money in conjunction with making a claim.
Never reveal your credit card and/or bank information to anyone unless you are certain the contact is legitimate and from a reputable company with whom you have a long-term relationship. The Illinois Lottery only requires credit card information when you contact them directly to purchase or renew a Mega Millions, Lotto or Little Lotto subscription.
About Illinois Lottery
Founded in 1974, the Illinois Lottery has contributed more than $17.5 billion to the state’s Common School Fund to assist K-12 public schools, as well as $152 million to the Capital Projects Fund. Players must be at least 18 years old. For more information on the Illinois Lottery visit www.illinoislottery.com.