Crime Watch

CRIME WATCH

March 29, 2006|By ANDREA F. SIEGEL

Officials issue alert about lottery scheme

Authorities are warning Marylanders of a foreign sweepstakes scheme that they say could empty the bank accounts of "winners" of an overseas lottery.

The letters tell recipients they have won the El Mundo Spanish Lottery Sweepstakes and they are due to receive 615,810 euros - which is nearly $745,000 - but they must send their detailed personal banking information to a Madrid address so the winnings can be transferred to their account.

Such a letter arrived this week at the Arnold home of Charlie Alfred, who works as coordinator of the United Auto Workers Region 8 retired workers department in Baltimore.

"I am just scared that this is going to clean so many people out," Alfred said.

He recognized the letter from a program on schemes done for the union's retirees several years ago in Florida, he said, and forwarded it to prosecutors in Anne Arundel County.

Foreign lotteries are illegal in the United States, officials said.

"If you give them that information, then I guarantee you that by the end of the week your life savings, if it is in that bank, will be gone," said Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee.

A spokesman for the Maryland attorney general's office said the office had not seen the letter but is familiar with similar ones that are bogus.

"Your personal banking information should not be shared with anybody except at the bank," said Kevin Enright, an attorney general's spokesman.

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