Goddard reminds seniors to be aware of lottery and sweepstakes scams

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Attorney General Terry Goddard is advising seniors to be aware of lottery and sweepstakes scams that are currently on the rise in Arizona.

"With many scam artists taking aim at seniors, I want all Arizonans to be armed with the knowledge they need to stay safe and stop crimes before they happen," Goddard said. "Prevention is always better than prosecution. The best defense against scams and frauds are seniors that spot the warning signs and stop those scams before they happen."

Goddard said the scam usually starts with a phone call, a letter, or an e-mail telling seniors that they've won a sweepstakes, lottery or expensive new car.

The phone callers often say they are with the IRS, FBI, U.S. Attorney's Office, Federal Trade Commission or even international businesses. They usually explain to the "winner" that to receive the grand prize they need to pay money to cover taxes or insurance fees.

They tell the winner to keep the news of their prize confidential and give instructions to wire the money to a foreign country to claim the multimillion-dollar check. Once the "winner" pays $500, $1,000 or even $5,000, there will be more phone calls with complex reasons why more money needs to be paid to get the big prize.

Be aware of some warning signs to protect yourself against these types of scams:

-- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

-- Be suspicious of any lottery or sweepstakes mail. Many times these mailings say to send a small amount of money to find out if you are a winner. Most seniors who receive the calls from these scam artists initially responded to something that came to them in the mail.

-- Read the fine print. Many of these letters will say you need to send money in order to acquire your winnings.

-- Never pay money. No legitimate lottery or sweepstakes company will ask you to pay money.

-- Never share your personal information, especially not your Social Security number, bank account or credit card number.

-- Alert authorities. If you have become a victim, don't be afraid or ashamed to report it. It's your civic duty to make sure others don't become victims to the same scams.

-- Scam alerts. Sign up for the Attorney General's Scam Alerts at www.azag.gov. These alerts allow you to stay ahead of the rapidly changing consumer scams and schemes.

The Attorney General's Office offers Senior Anti-Crime Universities throughout Arizona to help seniors learn to protect themselves against many of these types of scams. Click here to see a schedule of upcoming events.