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Classic lottery scam has a brand new twist

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(3 ON YOUR SIDE) - It's not every day you're treated like royalty when you walk into a gas station, but that's exactly what happened to 80-year-old Harold Diamond and his wife.

They recently bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket at the store and won $326 million. A New York lottery official came to the gas station to give a big welcome.

"Let's congratulate and welcome Harold Diamond," the lottery official said.

Diamond a retired school principal, said, "When I saw the last number, I yelled up to my wife,' I think we won a few bucks.' "

But it didn't take long for crooks to try and cash in on a classic lottery scam using a slick new twist.

"The twist with this scam is they're taking actual real events, an actual real person, and pretending to be that individual," said Felicia Thompson with the Phoenix Better Business Bureau.

If you Google Harold Diamond's name, you'll see that he is, in fact, an actual lottery winner, but con-artists are now trying to lure you in by circulating an email claimed to be written by Diamond himself, saying he wants to share some of his money with you.

"They're claiming that he's sending the email to someone randomly saying, 'You've won part of my prize. I'm going to give you a percentage of my winnings,' " Thompson explained.

Thompson said the new scam can be convincing.

"What they're really trying to do is get you to respond to his lawyer, and what the lawyer is going to ask you to do is to pay a few taxes and fees just to get the winnings," she said.

And like other scams using emails or phone calls that 3 On Your Side has reported on over the years, if you send money in any amount, it will never be enough. Crooks would like nothing better than to bleed your wallet dry.

"You just have to keep your eye out, trust your gut, and when in doubt, research outside of what this person is providing in an email or the phone call," Thompson advised.

There have been other Mega Millions fake lottery scams in the past. Visit the Mega Millions website or the Arizona Attorney General's Office website for details about how to avoid becoming a victim.

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