Tuesday, May 20, 2003

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Attorney General Abbott Warns About ' Canadian Lottery ' Scam

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sounded the alarm today against a rapidly growing crime that is costing Texas seniors millions of dollars. Abbott warned law enforcement officers and seniors throughout central Texas about the so-called "Canadian Lottery" scam.

"We must work together to protect Texas seniors and other consumers from phony foreign lottery scams. Victims have mortgaged their homes, lost life savings and wired money from bank accounts to crooks running these scams," said Attorney General Abbott during an appearance in San Marcos today.

The Canadian lottery scam usually starts with calls from enthusiastic telemarketers informing unsuspecting consumers that they have won the Canadian Lottery. In some cases, the caller requires the victim to wire money to Canada first to pay taxes on the winnings in order to obtain the prize later. Victims often receive numerous calls. Each time, the caller asks the victim to wire more money, citing complications in paying the necessary taxes or other fees associated with getting the prize.

In other versions of the scam, the caller requests victims' bank account numbers under the pretense that winnings will be deposited directly, or asks for the victims' credit card numbers for "verification purposes." Either way, the solicitor attempts to steal identifying information in order to loot the victim's account, a scenario Attorney General Abbott urges consumers to avoid.

According to the Phonebusters program of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in a seven-week period late last year, 244 Texas victims wired almost $1 million to Canada.

The problem has grown worse since many of these criminals have abandoned the traditional "boiler room" settings and now use stolen cellular phones to call victims. The perpetrators' mobility has made it much more difficult to track them down and arrest them.

There is virtually no hope of recovering any funds lost to this scheme. Accordingly, Attorney General Abbott has partnered with senior advocacy groups like Triad and local law enforcement agencies to get the word out.

"If someone calls and says you have won the Canadian or any other foreign lottery, simply hang up, and report the incident to the authorities immediately," said the Attorney General.

As part of his presentation to the Regional Triad Conference, a crime-fighting partnership of seniors and local law enforcement officers, Attorney General Abbott played a recording of an actual phone conversation between a Canadian Lottery phone solicitor and an elderly female victim.

The victim on the recording had previously sent large amounts of cash to Canada. During the conversation the caller yells obscenities to the elderly woman when she tells him she is unwilling to send additional funds.

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Recorded Actual Phone Conversation: Audio | Transcript
Samples of Payments: Wire Transfers | Cashier's Checks