Lottery scams targets elderly

Published 4:46 pm Friday, October 10, 2008

The latest in a series of lottery scams in the Roanoke-Chowan region is making its rounds in Hertford County.

This time, the scam seems to target the elderly, according to Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan.

At least two senior citizens have reported receiving letters from a company claiming to be “Universal Trust and Finance Inc.”

The letters inform the recipients that they have won $250,000 and a check is enclosed in the amount of $4,880. Addressees are instructed to call “the claim agent” immediately upon receiving the letter.

How the scam works is that those who receive the letter and enclosed check are told to cash the check at their banks and then send a Moneygram from Wal-Mart in the amount of $2,985 for “payment of the applicable government taxes on winnings.”

However, even if a bank actually accepts the check, it eventually will bounce and be returned to the person who cashed it. The bank will demand restitution, but normally by that time the person cashing the check has already sent off payment as instructed.

“They would be held liable for the money, the check amount to the bank plus the so-called tax payment that was sent… so people would be out nearly $8,000 total,” stated Vaughan.

Both Hertford County citizens receiving the letter alerted Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn, who is the director of the Senior Center in Winton. Blackburn, in turn, then contacted Vaughan who began investigating the scam.

“We will try to further investigate the person or persons who are doing this… we have contacted the FBI about similar situations in the past, but often have found that the address listed on the letter turned out to be a vacant lot in another state somewhere,” Vaughan noted.

He added, “Anyone getting a letter like this in the mail should alert the sheriff’s office… and definitely don’t take the check to the bank because it’s no good. The checks look real, but they are not.”