Woman falls victim to lottery scam
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When Leanne Parker of Glenwood Springs received a letter in the mail saying that she’d won some money in the Australian Lottery, she didn’t think anything was wrong. She was excited.
“I thought it was great,” she said. “I thought I won some money.”
The letter also contained a check made out to her name in the amount of $4,873.
“I should have paid closer attention,” she said. “Everything looked professional, but I should have checked it out.”
Parker took the check to the US Bank in Glenwood Springs where she does her banking and deposited the check into her account. Then, as instructed in the letter, Parker sent two checks, one in the amount of $2,870 and another for $1,000 to P.O. Boxes in British Columbia, and Ontario, Canada. Thinking that she just deposited close to $5,000 into her account she didn’t see any problem with writing the checks for $3,870 to cover what the letter sighted as fees and taxes.
Less than three days later she received a call from the bank saying that the check she had deposited into her account was fraudulent, Parker said. Her checks were already cashed, and no one had any answers for her.
“It’s embarrassing. It sucks, but it happens,” Parker said.
The letter she received was signed by Myla Endring, promotions manager for the Australian Sweepstakes Lottery, and had a phone number for Parker to call. When Parker called the phone number, she said that the person on the other end of the line just played the situation down and didn’t explain anything.
“They kept telling me, ‘I understand how you feel,'” Parker said. But offered no resolution to the problem.
The phone number is registered to a business in Toronto. When that number is called, a person claiming to work for the Australian Lottery asks if you’ve received one of their letters and if you are wanting to claim your prize. The man on the other end of the phone told the Post Independent his name was “Morstar Clinton, like Bill Clinton.”
When asked about the fraudulent check that the company sent to Parker, he immediately hung up. He did not answer on several following attempts to contact him.
Parker is now out $3,873 that she must repay to the bank, because she had insufficient funds to cover the checks she had written to cover the supposed fees and taxes.
In 2003 the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to shut down cross-border scams similar to this one. An article published by Consumer Affairs on July 3, 2003, details a lottery scam nearly identical to the one that victimized Parker. So with the federal government looking into the problem, it’s obvious that similar scams are still operating today.
Parker’s case is being investigated by the United States Postal Service. As of Jan. 25, she hadn’t heard anything from the postal service but was told by US Bank that it was unlikely the money would be returned, Parker said.
“I just wish more efforts would get involved and try to stop this type of thing,” Parker said.
Crystal Corey, the assistant vice president of the Glenwood Springs branch of US Bank, said that she advises people who receive anything in the mail involving money that doesn’t seem right, or if they are unsure about, to take it to the bank and have it checked out prior to depositing it.
“Unfortunately, these things are more common than we would like,” Corey said. “If something doesn’t feel right, surely check it out.”
Corey said that US Bank has a fraud liaison group that deals with these types of fraud issues specifically, and they have had some success in catching quite a few beforehand.
“People should always check with their institution in these situations,” Corey said, “because there are measures in place to help prevent things like this from happening.”