Often I am approached by clients asking me to investigate the legitimacy of notices of lottery “winnings” they receive in the mail. I recall several instances where a client’s supposed “winnings” from various lotteries totaled well over 20 million dollars. Of course the notices always come with a small catch that usually reads something like “must send 35.00 dollars to hold your prize.” My clients’ reactions to these notices range from skeptical to cautious and sometimes even euphoric. I have not once had a client win a legitimate lottery. These are scams pure and simple.
I do not blame clients from thinking they may have won money. Mail scammers are experts; they often use expensive stamps or stationary. I have taken the time to track down the source of many of these official looking documents and often dead end at small PO boxes in UPS stores across the country. Many times multiple offers and lotteries originate from a single UPS box.
These scammers methodically target those with fixed incomes. They often buy an intended target’s financial information from the internet before sending the hook mail. In 2015 Fox News 6 in Houston, Texas reported on one victim who cashed out her retirement IRA totaling over $200,000 in order to claim promised lottery prizes. The full report can be accessed at http://fox6now.com/2015/04/24/she-lost-her-entire-life-savings-woman-cashes-in-ira-for-fake-lottery-winnings/. She lost everything.
One resource that I recommend to all of my clients is Jilenne Gunther’s “Navigating Your Rights: The Utah Legal Guide for Those 55 and Over.” It is available on the internet free of charge at http://legalguide55.utah.gov/. The guide provides a succinct reference on all of the most common types of fraud and other abuse as well as the way to report wrongdoers to the appropriate agencies. If you believe you have become entitled to any winnings please consult an attorney, do not feel embarrassed; however, please do not send money without first evaluating the authenticity of the offer.