Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart is warning residents not to be fooled by scams where "winners" are told they are entitled to a large lottery cash prize without ever having purchased a ticket.
Scammers are reaching their victims, who are often senior citizens, via telephone calls, faxes, emails and letters to tell them about their "jackpot." Some of these letters include phony seals and certificates. To collect, however, money needs to be sent either via Western Union or cashier's check to a foreign address to pay for additional taxes and/or handling charges.
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The scammer may also contact the victim again and mention there was a mistake on the tax calculation and more money must be sent.
During the last six months, an 80-year-old victim lost $90,000 and a 74-year-old victim lost $82,000 in this type of scam. Both victims are from the South suburbs.
It is believed this type of scam is prevalent all over the country. The sheriff's department has received numerous calls about it.
Sheriff Dart reminds the public that you cannot win a lottery without having entered it. There are no upfront fees to pay for a legitimate lottery win. The public should be suspicious if contacted by a lottery agency located in another country.
If contacted by telephone, do not give any personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers; hang up immediately and contact local law enforcement.
Anyone who believes they are a victim should call their local law enforcement or Cook County Sheriff's Police at (708) 865-4896.