LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- National Consumer Protection Week is a nationwide campaign to inform and encourage consumers to take advantage of their rights and make informed decisions. In this Rip-Off Alert, it is important to know the warning signs in foreign lottery scams.
Scam operators use the phone and mail to lure consumers in with the promise of instant wealth.
The victims, who never entered their names in a lottery, receive mail containing fake checks or a letter saying they had hit the jackpot.
To collect their winnings, they were told they had to pay a fee, tax or other expense. In each case, it was a scam.
"We're taking inspectors and, in some cases, teams of inspectors to ports of entry to keep the mail from entering the mail stream," said U.S. Postal Inspector Pamela Durkee.
Despite this effort, the solicitations that get through cost victims $120 million in losses in just a year.
"Look at the post mark,” Durkee said. “If it is from a foreign country, I would be suspect. Foreign postage is a huge red flag."
Con men also use the phone. Telemarketers "guarantee" you have won such valuable prizes as vacations, cars or cash. But again, they ask for a bogus fee up front. Sadly, they also prey on the elderly.
"These fraud operators will call them and befriend them and tell them what they want to hear and make them feel like they made a new friend," Durkee said.
If you ever get what looks like lottery material from a foreign country, give it to your local postmaster. And just use your common sense; there is no way to win a lottery you have never entered.