Lottery officials alert players to gambling scams

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  • Oct. 12, 2011 5:00 p.m.

If you’re reading this, you’ve just won $500,000!

If that sounds too good to be true, it is. But every day, thousands of people across Canada and around the world receive an email, a letter or a telephone call telling them that they’ve won a lot of money, and all they have to do is send money for fees and taxes. Many people immediately throw away the letter, delete the email, or hang up the phone. But too often, the recipient believes that they’re being told the truth, and sends money. Of course, there’s no lottery prize waiting for them.

Two women recently appeared at the Western Canada Lottery Corporation’s head office in Winnipeg, Man. One of the women was on her way to buy a plane ticket to London, England. She thought she was going there to claim a big lottery prize.

“Thank goodness her friend talked her into stopping at our offices,” said Andrea Marantz, director of corporate affairs for WCLC. “She had no idea it was a scam. I hate to imagine what could have happened if she had arrived alone in London.”

But some damage had already been done. The woman had sent a substantial amount of “tax” money to the thieves. She may also have inadvertently given them access to her bank account and credit information, risking theft of her identity.

A man contacted WCLC communications insisting the corporation pay him the prize he won on the Sweepstakes International program. There is no such thing, but this caller had received a letter showing a photograph of WCLC’s Winnipeg head office, listing the correct address and website. A closer read of the correspondence showed many discrepancies.

“We get a handful of these sorts of calls every week — from within Canada and from abroad. We know that not everyone is familiar with lotteries and how they work.” said Kevin van Egdom, manager of communications at WCLC. “Bottom line — if you don’t have a ticket, you didn’t win.”

Lotteries in Canada exist to raise money for priority programs and all profits are returned to the provinces in which they operate. Therefore, a lottery where no one pays for a ticket would defeat the purpose.

WCLC urges consumers to protect themselves. Remember:

• There are no fees or taxes associated with collecting a legitimate lottery win

• No lotteries select from email addresses or names – you must have a purchased ticket

• No lottery organization would ever ask you to give personal or financial information over the phone or by email.

If you receive one of these solicitations:

• First and foremost, ignore it. It’s not real — it’s an attempt to steal from you.

• Don’t call the number provided in the solicitation.

• Contact your local police service. They may be aware of the scam. In Canada, a police organization called the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre tracks this type of activity. You can visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca

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