PBSO warns of lottery ticket scam targeting the elderly and Hispanic

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Authorities are advising the public that a new scam involving lottery tickets, which targets the elderly and the Hispanic community, has emerged.

Since January 2011, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has received 13 complaints involving lottery scams, said Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

She said the majority of victims are elderly or of Hispanic origin.

The scammers are targeting Hispanics by approaching them in parking lots and asking them for help in redeeming a winning lottery ticket.

The excuse is that the lottery winner is not a United States citizen, and needs the person to cash the winning ticket. But the supposed winners ask their targets to supply what Barbera calls "good faith money," to ensure that the person won't take off with the winnings. The scammer then takes off with the cash.

Barbera said most cases are occurring in the suburban West Palm Beach area.

When the scammers contact the elderly, they do so over the phone. Scammers tell their targets that they've won either a sweepstakes prize or a lottery prize and should send money to cover the taxes. In three recent cases, the caller asked that the money to be sent to Jamaica.

In March, the Palm Beach Post reported a similar scam involving money being wired to Jamaica. At the time, Mary Jones of the Aging Resource Center in West Palm Beach, said that she processes an average of 400 new victims a month who fall prey to these scams.

Along with other experts, Jones warned to not get caught in the moment and wire money without first confirming the source. And experts agree: If you didn't ask for it, you shouldn't be getting it.

"Nothing is free," Jones said in March. "You just don't win a million dollars."

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