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Mail scam uses lottery to attract victims
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Financial advisors are warning their clients of a new mail scam that notifies recipients that they have won the lottery.

The scam was brought to the attention of David Allred of Advanced Retirement Planning when a woman in her 80s requested him to look at a check she'd received in mail.

"She got this thing in the mail saying that she'd won this lottery," said Allred. "It said that she had won $50,000 from this international lottery from Canada...But, she needed to send $2,000 to Spain to pay the taxes so they generously [sent] her a check for $2,300."

The letter advised her to deposit the $2,300 into her bank account and then wire $2,000 to Spain to pay for the taxes on the winnings.

Being homebound in a wheel chair, the elderly woman requires home healthcare takers to look after her during the week. When she showed the check and accompanying letter to the healthcare taker, the taker called Allred to come verify its authenticity, and he confirmed it as a scam.

"The way it works is that the check is bad," explained Allred. "It's going to bounce. She won't know that for several days or weeks. Meanwhile, the $2,000 that the bank credited her into her account has gone to Spain. Then, by the time they realized the $2,300 check bounced, the bank wants the $2,300 back so she's now out $4,300."

Allred stated that the postmark was from Canada, used a New York address, used a check from Seattle, Wash. and requested that money be sent to Spain. Allred warns that if you receive a similar letter, be weary of its legitimacy.

"If you've won money legitimately, they're going to send you the money straight out and either withhold your taxes anyway or advise you that...they're going to send you a 10-99," said Allred.

Allred also warned that if you are required to pay a claim or processing fee then the offer is a scam.

"If you have to pay to claim your winnings, then there aren't really winnings out there," he said.

Allred says that scams are not uncommon - especially those targeted toward the elderly.

"It's one of those things that prey on the elderly," said Allred.

He says that the most common scams that his office sees are investment scams.

"Some of our clients will get approached by some really off-the-wall investments," said Allred. "We had one of our clients a couple years ago was offered to buy into this amusement park in Alabama that was going to be some sort of country music amusement park."

The ploy offered a 24 percent interest to those who invested and used celebrities like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson to attract potential investors.

"People get excited about high yield, but high yield also equates to high risk," said Allred.

Allred warned that the old adage ‘If it's too good to be true, then it probably is,' holds true with financial schemes.