Phoenix couple caught up in lottery scam

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PHOENIX -- James McDougle and his wife thought their lives were recently changed when they took a walk down to their mailbox.  

"I got a letter in the mail saying I won the lottery," McDougle said.

That letter states McDougle was the second prize winner in some kind of lottery entitling him to $95,000. McDougle said it kind of made sense to him.

"I play the lottery, I play sweepstakes," he said. "I sent some money to different places for sweepstakes and I thought this was one of those winnings."

The letter came with a cashier's check totaling more than $3,100. McDougle was supposed to deposit the check and then wire $2,800 back to lottery officials to pay for taxes on his winnings.

So, McDougle went to Chase Bank, deposited the check and then he and his wife went shopping.

"We went to WalMart, we went to Walgreens and went and got some gas," he said. "We gave our kids money."

Several days later, they received bad news. Chase Bank told McDougle and his wife that the check he deposited was fraudulent and Chase demanded that McDougle return all of the money.

The problem? They had already spent around $1,000 on items.

"How would I know that this is a fraud check and how would I know that this is a fraud letter?" McDougle asked.

The good news is McDougle and his wife never did wire money back to the scammers to pay for those so-called taxes. But, the couple still has to repay Chase and the bank for the $1,000 they already spent and the bank has put them on a payment plan.

McDougle said it's a valuable lesson.

"What I learned from this is just because it comes in the mail now, it's not real," he said.

3 On Your Side has been warning consumers for years about this scam.

Remember, if you ever get a letter informing you that you won some kind of a lottery, it's a scam. If you ever receive a check from someone you don't know or a company you're not familiar with, check it out because it's likely a scam.
And if you're ever asked to wire money to someone you don't know, it's definitely a scam.