On Your Side Alert: Foreign lottery scams target seniors

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A warning from the United States Postal Inspection Service says there's been an increase in the number of seniors victimized by foreign lottery scams.

U.S. Postal Inspector David McGinnis says mail fraud is a constant problem. He says one of the leading complaints are foreign lottery offers. Sometimes the crooks won't take no for an answer.

"If the person resists, they have actually threatened people. They have gone on to Google Maps and looked at their house and when they call them, they say, 'Look, I know your house is a yellow house and there is a black truck parked in the driveway,'" McGinnis explains.

He says many of these lottery scams originate in Jamaica. Usually, when you are dealing with foreign lotteries, it's difficult to make an arrest but McGinnis says the Jamaican government is cooperating with U.S. authorities.

"We've arrested dozens and dozens of these scammers in Jamaica," he said.

These lottery offers can show up in just about anybody's mailbox but the Postal Inspectors says the main target is seniors.

"We are asking trusted family members and friends to monitor senior citizens' bank accounts and look for large and sudden withdrawals and unexplained transactions," he said.

Here are some red flags: you get a lottery offer saying you owe fees or need to pay taxes to collect, you're told to keep your winnings a secret and you're requested to call a number for more details.

"That's where the problems start, foreign lotteries are illegal to begin with," McGinnis said.

He offers these safety tips: monitor bank account of elderly family members for suspicious activity, hang up if you get calls claiming you've won a lottery and monitor the mail for lottery offers.

"Typically, when we respond to a victim's home for one of these, we do find piles of letters," he tells us.

Remember, you can report mail fraud to The U.S. Postal Inspection Service by calling 877-876-2455.

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