Bogus Lottery Victim Hits The Jackpot
08 Sep 2006
A DUNGANNON woman has turned detective and avoided being swindled out of thousands of pounds after she was targeted for a second time by a lottery scam offering her a jackpot win.
In the case of Rita Ewing it appears that the fraudsters, who are based in Canada, have failed to learn their lesson.
Three years ago, when they were first hit by the scam, Rita and her husband David tipped off the FBI with the personal details of the fraudsters.
The couple's co-operation with US investigators led to the arrest of five criminals close to the Canadian border.
A fortnight ago, the scam resurfaced when the Mullybrannon husband and wife received another windfall cheque purporting to be from an Australian lottery.
The cheque arrived in a letter with a Canadian postmark.
Suspecting it was another fraud, Rita showed it to staff at a Dungannon bank, who told her that the cheque appeared legitimate.
The cheque was processed and credited to the Ewing's account.
However, the couple's suspicions were confirmed when they later received a series of phone-calls claiming that they had won a million pound prize on the same lottery.
A man with an American accent told them that in order to process the win they had to pass on their bank details and a transaction fee of £2,500.
Mrs Ewing contacted police who immediately began investigating the incident as attempted fraud.
The couple's bank has since notified them that the cashed cheque was a dud, and their account has had to be debited by several thousand pounds.
"Fortunately we had not spent any of the money as we were suspicious that it was another fraud", said Rita.
"We feel angry that we have been targeted twice but the criminals should watch out as we are wise to them", she warned.
"They are a lot of vulnerable people out there who might have spent the money and fallen prey to these criminals."
Although the police are now involved, the Dungannon woman is not adverse to a bit of investigative work herself.
It was thanks to her efforts that the FBI was able to track the original scam artists.
"I was suspicious the first time we were contacted, so each time they rang I would press 1471 but the number was always barred.
"I strung them along for a while, and they kept ringing us. Each time the caller would get more and more irate and cheeky.
"On one occasion a female accomplice called me and was very nasty because I still hadn't given them my bank details.
"She hung up on me and I hit 1471. I struck lucky and got their number."
The Ewings passed the telephone details onto the FBI, and later that night they received a phone-call from the US agency.
"They told us they had arrested five people right on the Canadian border.
They said the fraudsters could have walked out their back door into Canada, but thankfully they caught them unawares", said Mrs Ewing.
"They were very grateful that we had passed on the number and couldn't believe we had made the effort to contact them in the US.
"It was the fraudsters' nasty manner and a desire to stop others being targeted that made us ring the authorities", said Rita.
She has vowed to take the same action if her family is targeted again.
"Unfortunately this time I wasn't able to get their number, though I managed to get them to ring us several times.
"I asked the caller to send the cheque to my address rather than into my account, and he kept making excuses."
Local police have warned householders to be aware of the scam, and not to give out personal details such as bank account numbers to unsolicited callers.
"Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is", said Inspector Tom Sinclair.
He added that anyone who receives such a call or correspondence and is suspicious of it should contact the police.
Associated Link: http://www.tyronetimes.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=2617&ArticleID=1752686
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