No Prize in Lotto Scams – Trending in SF Valley
Los Angeles. Detectives are warning San Fernando Valley Spanish-speaking residents against falling victim to con artists offering shares in a big winning Lotto ticket in return for “trust” money.
“The old adage holds true: ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,’” warns Det. Marc Madero, who works the robbery unit for LAPD’s Mission Detective Division. “We might see 6 or 8 of these a year, but we’ve now seen two in the last week and four in the last month.”
The scam goes like this: A Spanish-speaking man or woman approaches the unsuspecting mark and explains that he’s holding a winner Lotto ticket, but can’t claim it as he is in the USA illegally. The con artist suggests the mark helps him by redeeming the ticket for the prize, then splitting it with the con artist. But here’s the catch: the mark must put up some money as a show of good faith, which the con holds or asks a disinterested third-party to hold. The ticket is counterfeit and the con artist makes off with the good-faith money. That so-called disinterested party will always be the con artist’s accomplice or shill.
Recently, victims have reported being duped out of $1,000 at a time. In several instances when the mark has no cash, the con artist suggests the mark put up jewelry instead.
“Of course the money or jewelry is never seen again,” explains Det. Madero. “And all the victim has left is a worthless Lotto ticket and the embarrassment of falling for a common trick.” Out of embarrassment, victims either do not report crimes, or change the story to report the money loss, often saying they were robbed. Mis-reporting the circumstances will never result in catching the suspects.
Detectives warn against these scams and offer the following tips to protect the public:
- Legitimate lotteries, like the state of California or the private clearinghouse prizes do NOT require money from the winner in order to collect the prize
- US citizenship is NOT a requirement for winning a lottery prize
- If you are approached by a person with such an offer, do NOT fall prey and call police
- If you do fall for the scam, don’t exaggerate what occurred, for example, claiming you were robbed. Theft by trick or device is still a crime and police will investigate con or bunco crimes.
Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Marc Madero, Mission Robbery Unit, at (818) 838-9898. Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Online tips may be placed at www.LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.