#039;Lottery Scam#039; targets elderly in Montgomery, other areas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

Some Covington County residents have been the victim of various scams over the past few years, and a new scam is causing problems in a nearby city.

Police in Montgomery are cautioning residents in the city to beware of what is being called the "Australian Lottery Scam."

The scam has apparently been focused on the elderly.

According to a Montgomery police officer, the most recent episode took place a couple of weeks back.

An 85-year-old customer recently tried to withdraw $30,000 after allegedly being contacted by a local bank, but bank personnel would not go through with the transaction, and called the police to convince the customer she was being scammed. She then left the bank with the police officer thinking she had been convinced.

The woman, however, later went to another bank and was able to get the money, which she sent to New York. She never received anything in return.

The lottery scam in Montgomery is yet another example of scam artists who seek to profit from the trusting,

nature of elderly residents –

mostly women.

There are several reasons for this, including the fact that often elderly women outlive their husbands and find themselves responsible for finances perhaps for the first time.

Elderly residents are advised to use caution whenever something appears "too good to be true."

Some guidelines to follow include:

Be wary if you get a phone call or a letter saying that you have won a fabulous prize, if the prize notification says you have to pay a small shipping and handling fee. Do not send money. You should never have to pay for a prize in any way.

Be careful about companies saying they can erase your bad credit history for a fee. The only way to clear up a bad credit report is through time and regular payment of bills. A company that claims they can erase things on your credit report is fraudulent. Never give your social security number, credit card information or bank account numbers to telemarketers over the phone. Ask for more information to be sent to you if you are really

interested in the product or service. After receiving the information in the mail, then you can make a more educated determination if the company is a legitimate one.

Be careful when sales people come to your door saying that they are offering a special in the neighborhood for a particular service. Scam artists pose as contractors doing inspections and often can charge exorbitant fees to fix things that may not need repair at all.

A new type of scam involves scammers saying they can help you recover money if you have already been scammed. These people often pose as members of a government agency, and will ask you for a fee to help you recover the lost money.

Before doing business with any company, call the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has ever been reported in the past for fraudulent activity. The Better Business Bureau also has a web site where concerned or inquiring citizens can have questions answered and can help consumers file complaint forms.

According to the Lectric Law Library web site, sweepstakes promoters often target older people due to their more receptive nature, and are also more likely to be interested in promotions such as vitamins,

medical alert systems

and vacations.

Other types of fraud include car repair fraud,

health scams,

tax scams, web fraud, scholarship fraud and work-at-home scams.

For more information on how to recognize and avoid scams e-mail the Federal Consumer

Information Center of the U.S. General Services Administration at atalog.pueblo@gsa.gov.