Lottery scams cost some people hundreds of thousands of dollars. Be real careful when you receive e-mails and phone calls about you being the winner of a lottery that you didn’t enter.
Lottery Scam/Mass Marketing Fraud - I06/01/2010
Mr. Schiff: Hello. I’m Neal Schiff, and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. Lottery scams cost some people hundreds of thousands of dollars. Be real careful when you receive e-mails and phone calls about you being the winner of a lottery that you didn’t enter. The FBI is now investigating mass marketing fraud, and there are quite a few victims. We were able to make contact with a retired college professor who is a victim of a major lottery scam.
Fraud Victim: “Initially, I thought it was okay. But as it moved forward, I did become a victim of an advanced fee lottery fraud.”
Mr. Schiff: How did you receive the solicitation from the subject?
Fraud Victim: “Well, the e-mail came in the form of a formal letterhead e-mail from the Australian International Lottery Company in London in May 2005. So, it seemed legitimate. It listed the CEO of the company, who was also an official of Barkley’s Bank. It gave his titles, address, e-mail, phone number, and it included my name with my title, my address, my phone number, and my e-mail address. It seemed legitimate.”
Mr. Schiff: Did you have direct contact with the subject rather than using e-mail to communicate?
Fraud Victim: “Yes, phone calls. The initial phone call came from the CEO of the company. He had a very precise, very professional English accent and discussed in a very professional way the process to release the funds to me.”
Mr. Schiff: Did the subject try to become a friend, engage you in a friendship?
Fraud Victim: “Well, this individual, the initial contact, gave me another individual who was to be my representative to ensure that the money was being moved through the process legally. And that individual, again, gave me his address, phone number, e-mail address, and he did become a friend. He was very personable, very friendly, professional, but he, over time—and this took place over a four-year period—over time, he became very knowledgeable about our family because he would discuss his family and my family in a very personal way, and he became like the neighbor next door.”
Mr. Schiff: So he was a real schmoozer?
Fraud Victim: “He was good. According to all of the sources that I have, he was probably one of the best.”
Mr. Schiff: How much money did you lose, and was it a gradual loss or in one lump sum?
Fraud Victim: “It was a gradual loss. The individual requested money for government papers, like drug documents or anti-terrorist documents, things that were legal in the system for obtaining money through the lottery and he would ask for $2,000 or $1,500 and this went on for a period of four years. You did not really realize, sending a limited amount of money like that every few weeks or months, that you had really spent as much as you had spent. We ultimately ended up spending $493,000 over the four-year period.”
Mr. Schiff: How did you send the money, and were you provided with special instructions on how to do it?
Fraud Victim: “Yes, he would tell me how much he needed and for what document. I would try to check the document online and for the most part, the documents were real and could have been part of this process. He then would tell me where to send it, to whom. I would send it primarily to him, but if he were out of town, he would give me the name of his secretary or his brother or someone to send the money to. Most of it was sent through Western Union or Money Gram; however, another portion of it was sent through wire transfers to an E-Gold bank account and to a Citibank bank account.”
Mr. Schiff: At what point did you begin to wonder if this is a scam?
Fraud Victim: “I wondered frequently through the process, and each time I had an uneasy feeling, I would check the Internet to try to see if what was going on was a legitimate process and it seemed to be. And then I would confront my representative and tell him that I felt uncomfortable, that I felt it was a scam. When I did he would get very indignant: ‘Don’t tell me it’s a scam, I’m very legitimate; I’m above-board; I’m honest,’ and then he would get into being my friend. My husband was ill at the time, so he would talk about my husband, always ask about him, pray for him. But the word 'scam' to him was a real red flag as far as he was concerned and I was attempting to find out the legitimacy of this process.”