CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging residents to be on the lookout for letters claiming to be a notification of lottery winnings.
The Attorney General’s Office has received calls and questions from consumers who received a letter purporting to be a winning prize notification for an international sweepstakes lottery. The letter includes a check to be used to pay for the prize’s processing fee.
The letter directs the consumer to contact a claims agent to activate the check. Once the check is activated, the winner is told to deposit the check, and then withdraw the same amount to send back to the sweepstakes officials to cover processing and fees. The consumer is not aware he or she has been scammed until the prize check bounces. By then, the scammers have collected the “processing fees” sent by the consumer and moved on to other potential victims.
“When people hear that they won the lottery, they sometimes allow their initial excitement to override warning signs they may typically notice. We want to help protect people from losing their hard earned money to a scam,” Morrisey said in a statement.
The letter is from Shaw Financial Inc., listing four international offices including the United States, Africa, Ireland, and England. Shaw Financial Incorporated has multiple scam reports on ripoffreport.com
. The check is written from Eclipse Enterprises Inc.
The Better Business Bureau has not given either company a rating. On its website, the BBB says the company and address provided on the check are nonexistent.
Sweepstakes and lottery scams are often common in West Virginia, and in 2014, was the third most common type of scam reported to the Consumer Protection Division. Morrisey offers consumers tips on how to identify and ignore the malicious claims:
- Keep your money and your information to yourself. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it.
- If you have to pay upfront to collect winnings, it’s no prize. Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay fees to participate or to receive a prize.
- Research the company or lottery to see if they are legitimate. Do an online search with the word “scam” after it to see if anything pops up. By checking out a company’s details, users can easily spot discrepancies.
- Organize your sweepstakes entries. You can only win sweepstakes that you enter, so if you receive a notification, you can easily check to make sure that you actually entered that contest.
If you believe you have been a victim of a lottery scam or other scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or the Eastern Panhandle field office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239. To file a report online, go to www.wvago.gov