July 28, 2003

JULY 28, 2003



Attorney General Steven Rowe today warned Mainers that professional con artists are using the pretense of a Canadian lottery to bilk Mainers out of thousands of dollars, and that older Mainers seem to be their preferred targets.

The scammers call on the telephone and tell the victims that they have won several hundred thousand dollars, but that certain taxes and duties need to be paid before the prize can be delivered.  They persuade the victim to wire several thousand dollars to cover those charges.  If they are successful, the scammers continue to contrive schemes to bilk the victims out of more money.  In one case, they said that customs officials had wrongly arrested the person delivering the check and impounded the check itself, requiring several more thousand from the victim to bail the person and release the check.  Of course, there is no check, and the con artists move on to the next victim.  One Mainer is believed to have lost over $100,000 to a series of scams, another couple is believed to have lost over $50,000, and many others report being contacted.

While local, State, and federal officials are working with Canadian officials to stop them, the scammers evade law enforcement by entering the State only rarely and briefly, using Western Union to transfer funds, and changing telephone numbers constantly.

Rowe said, “Some healthy skepticism goes a long way.  These offers do not make sense, and they are not for real.”

Rowe urged Mainers to get the word out among elderly family and friends that this scam is operating here.  Rowe also urged Mainers to use the new Check It Out program by calling toll-free 1-877-353-3771 (1-877-ELDERS-1) to check on any offers that seem too good to be true.  For more information about Check It Out, visit: face="Times New Roman" size=3>=


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