Lottery, Other Scams Target Montana Consumers
HELENA – The Montana Consumer Protection Office in the Department of Justice has recently seen an increase in the number of complaints about some classic scams, Assistant Attorney General Pam Bucy said Tuesday.
Montanans have lost tens of thousands of dollars in recent weeks by falling victim to “foreign lottery,” “work-at-home” and “pay-to-work” scams.
Here’s how the foreign lottery scam works:
- The potential victim receives a notification that he’s won a lottery.
- The “award” letter also includes a money order, usually for $5,000. The letter tells the recipient that the money order is for a portion of his winnings.
- To get the rest of the winnings, the letter instructs the recipient to cash the money order, and return about two-thirds of it to pay “other expenses,” like taxes or handling.
- The money order, although it looks remarkably realistic, is a fake. Ultimately it bounces, and the victim can end up owing his bank the amount of the money order and other fees.
“People think they’ve won, they cash the check and send most of the money back and still feel like they’ve won something,” Bucy said. Victims have come forward in communities around the state.
The “work-at-home” advertisements show up in newspapers, on bulletin boards or posters or in unsolicited faxes. The ads promise quick, easy money for seemingly simple tasks, like envelope stuffing, surfing the Web, filling out a survey, being a mystery shopper, entering computer data or even raising earthworms.
The catch is that the consumer must pay a fee before starting the work.
“People send away their money, thinking they’ll get instructions or materials in return,” Bucy said, “and they end up receiving useless information or no information at all.”
Bucy said the “pay to work” scam is similar. Ads may promise great jobs or money-making opportunities, but users have to pay a fee for information or job listings.
“Consumers should be apprehensive any time they’re required to pay money up front, before they get money, a job or information,” she said.
Montanans who may have fallen prey to these scams or ones like them should contact local law enforcement or call the Consumer Protection Office at (406) 444-4500.
(The Montana Lottery’s page on scams and frauds: www.montanalottery.com/fraudandscam.xsp)