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FBI warns the public about latest lottery scam

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Tom Simon says the FBI continues to work closely with their law enforcement counterparts in Canada to shut down “lottery scams”, which target residents in states and territories, and have urged residents of American Samoa not to be victims of scams that come through the internet or postal service.


Early this week, the American Samoa Power Authority issued a statement warning the public about a fraudulent check scheme originating from a company called “Apple Instant Payment Inc.” based in Ontario, Canada.


The company sends a letter telling a recipient they are a winner in a sweepstakes or lottery drawn, with a check issued in their name from the “American Samoa Power Authority”. The ASPA checking account is purportedly to be with ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank.


ASPA says this is a fraudulent check scheme. (See Tuesday’s edition for more details from ASPA).


Asked if the FBI is aware of this company or if the FBI has detected this Canadian company’s fraudulent scheme, Simon says the company in question “is not a legitimate business”.


“Instead, it is a fake corporate name used by con-men to cheat people out of their money in an old-fashioned lottery scam,” said Simon via e-mail from the FBI Honolulu office. “The FBI has been aware of lottery scams for over 20 years, and we work closely with Canadian authorities to shut these operations down and hold the thieves accountable for their actions.”


Asked about the federal government’s plans to be implemented or which are already in place to recover money for victims of such scams, Simon explained that the victim’s money in these cases is almost never recovered as it is moved or spent by the criminals immediately upon receipt.


“Once the money is gone, it is gone forever. If, however, an investigation results in a successful court conviction, the defendants are often ordered to pay restitution to the victims,” he said. “Sadly, this rarely results in any financial recovery to the victim. It ends up being a very expensive lesson in human greed.”


He also says it’s impossible for federal law enforcement to stop these types of scheme from entering U.S. borders — including American Samoa.


“As long as information can flow into the United States and its territories through the internet and postal mail, it is impossible to stop these false opportunities from reaching citizens,” he pointed out. “Instead, the FBI focuses our efforts on educating the public about these scams.”


He noted that a quick Google search of the terms ‘lottery scam’ and ‘Canadian lottery scam’ produces hundreds of thousands of links explaining this fraud in detail and warning the public against participating.


A Samoa News Google search did produce many such scams, including stories about lottery scams originating from Canada. One story says a Canadian man was arrested by the FBI in Maine in April this year for operating such a scam, bilking some $1.3 million out of Americans, mostly in southern California.


A Goggle search also showed there is at least one complaint about Apple Instant Payment Inc., aka Union Disbursement. The complaint provides identical information to what ASPA revealed in its media statement as well as an identical ‘winner notice’ that is sent to the victim to claim the money.


Based on information provided by ASPA to the local media, one check of $4,500 was received by a local resident. And the ASPA check appeared very legitimate. The name of the recipient of the check is blacked out along with other pertinent information.


Simon offered this advice: “American Samoa residents who receive checks in the mail they don’t deserve should immediately be suspicious and contact their banks before attempting to negotiate the checks.”


“Furthermore, there has never been a lottery or sweepstakes in human history that awards prizes to people who never entered the contest,” he said. “As soon as you are told about a lottery you have won, that you never entered, common sense should tell you it is a scam.”


“The FBI’s advice is to simply ignore these false opportunities. Delete the emails. Throw away the notices. Don’t be a victim,” he said and noted that lottery scams are classified by the FBI as Advance Fee Schemes in which the victims are asked to send their own money to release future winnings.”


“Without exception, these opportunities are never real and should be ignored. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he added.