Resident Falls Victim to Phony Lottery Scam

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– A Park Forest resident recently reported losing thousands of dollars through a phony sweepstakes scheme.

An officer was dispatched to the Park Forest Police Department on December 11 to investigate a report of fraud.

A resident related that she received a letter purporting to be from a representative of ING Direct informing her that she was the winner of a Sweepstakes and Lottery Draw held on October 1, 2008, in the amount of $450,000. The letter included a check in the amount of $4,950 that was a deduction from her winnings and was reportedly provided to help her pay the "Non-Resident Government Service Tax" that the letter said was required before her winnings would be dispersed to her.

The tax amount was $3900. The resident was instructed to send the amount to an address in Ontario, Canada via Money Gram. She was provided the phone number and names of two claims agents in the 778 area code.

The resident related that she called and spoke with one of the claims agents listed several times in order to verify her winnings and get instructions on how she should retrieve her prize money. She said the agent always spoke with her or returned her phone calls when she called. So, on Monday, December 1, 2008, she felt comfortable enough with the situation to deposit the $4,950 check into her personal bank account. She says she was told by the bank that the check would clear the next day, December 2.

On Tuesday, December 2, the resident withdrew $3,978 of her own money from the bank and electronically sent the funds to a company in Camden, Maine, per the instructions by Robert Smith.

On December 11, she learned that her bank account balance was much lower than expected. She contacted the bank and found that the check she had deposited on December 1 was determined to be "altered/fictitious," and the $4,950 was never deposited into her account.

Police continue to investigate.

Officer Butler checked the computer database and determined that the company she wired the money to in Camden, Maine, does exist. The owner of the company was not available at the time of the call, but the staff person who answered the phone indicated that they had been contacted by several police departments over the past three weeks regarding the use of their checking account, according to police. A message was left for the owner to contact Officer Butler.

Officer Butler called “Robert Smith” at the number provided by the resident and discovered that the number was now disconnected.