Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is warning suburban residents of a scam in which supposed "winners" are notified that they are entiled of a large lottery cash prize without ever having purchased a ticket.
Scammers are targeting victims, who are often senior citizens, with phone calls, faxes, emails and letters to tell them about their "jackpot," according to Dart. Some of the letters include phony seals and certificates created to dupe victims into thinking they're authentic.
The scam artists tell the "winners" that there's just one catch — to collect their winnings, they must first send money either via Western Union or cashier's check to a foreign address to pay for additional taxes and/or handling charges.
During the last six months in the south suburbs, an 80-year-old victim lost $90,000 and a 74-year-old victim lost $82,000 to this type of scam, according to Dart, who said lottery scams are prevalent all over the country.
In a press release issued Dec. 26, the sheriff reminded residents that you cannot win a lottery without having entered it, and there are no upfront fees to pay for a legitimate lottery win.
Residents should be suspicious if contacted by a lottery agency located in another country. If contacted by phone, do not give any personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers; hang up immediately and contact local police.
Anyone who believes they are a victim should contact their local police department.
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