Fraud of the Week: Inheritance and Lottery Scams

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Fraud of the Week: Inheritance and Lottery Scams
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Sergeant Barry Malciw

Sergeant Barry Malciw

Sergeant Barry Malciw is the Media Relations Officer for the Halton Regional Police Services.

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It’s Fraud Prevention Month (#FPM2017) and the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) announces its final scheduled Fraud of the Week: Inheritance and Lottery Scams.

Inheritance and lottery scams typically target older individuals who do not use online banking services. This enables fraudsters to hijack victims’ bank accounts for money laundering with less likelihood of them noticing.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, scammers will send up to three million fraudulent letters or emails at a time. The notifications are sent to people around the world and, generally, close to 100,000 people respond. Many victims lose between $20 and $30, but some lose as much as $250,000.

In a typical inheritance scam, an older person receives an email or letter claiming that they are eligible to collect an inheritance. To receive the inheritance, they have a set period of time (e.g. 14 days) to respond and provide their contact information by email. Those who reply go on to receive calls and emails from the fraudsters, as well as a form requesting personal information.

Shortly thereafter, a cheque for more than a thousand dollars arrives in the mail. To receive the inheritance, victims are asked to cash the cheque and transfer a larger amount of money than the original cheque is worth to the holder of the inheritance. Days later the victim learns that the cheque is fraudulent and they are out the money they transferred.

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In a lottery scam, potential victims are contacted by an email, phone call, text message or pop up screen on their computer. They are advised that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes. Prior to receiving the prize, however, victims are required to pay taxes, duties or other administrative fees. Once the funds are sent, the victim never receives the prize or is sent an alternate prize than they were promised.

To ensure their continued success, con artists create new twists on both inheritance and lottery scams in an attempt to stay one step ahead of potential victims.

The following protection tips have been provided courtesy of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Competition Bureau:

  1. Remember: Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee or tax to collect winnings. Known lottery and sweepstakes companies such as Reader’s Digest and Publisher’s Clearinghouse will never request money upfront in order to receive a prize.
  2. Caution: Never send money to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  3. Think: Don’t give out any banking information over the phone, through email or via text message.
  4. Investigate: Carefully examine all terms and conditions of any offer received. Claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.
  5. Ask yourself: Did I enter this contest? Why would a stranger leave me money? You more than likely cannot win money unless you have entered a contest nor inherit from someone you do not know.
  6. Important: Never provide personal information over the phone, no matter who the caller claims to represent.

Anyone with information pertaining to a fraud or any other crime is asked to contact the Regional Fraud Bureau Intake Office at 905-465-8741 or Fraud@haltonpolice.ca. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers “See something, Hear something, Say something” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.ca, or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).

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