Spanish lottery scam hitting East Tennessee mailboxes

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Just in time for the holidays, a lottery scam is hitting mailboxes in East Tennessee.

The con artists are using the name of a real lottery from Spain, but, the red flag is the simple fact that lotteries don’t ask for your banking information.

You never want to give personal information to someone you don’t know.

In Spain, “La Primitiva” and “El Gordo” are legitimate lotteries and are endorsed by the government.

Recently, people in East Tennessee have been receiving both emails and letters claiming they won money in “La Primitiva Loteria” promotion or sweepstakes, with one letter sent as recent as last week.

Bill Culberton says he’s never been to Spain, and never corresponded with anyone in Spain, yet, a letter he received supposedly from Loteria Primitiva in Madrid claims he’s hit the jackpot.

The letter says he’s a winner of nearly a million euros, or about $1.1 million, and he has until Dec. 20 to get back to them.

Culberton says he’s never even heard of the lottery or how they got his information.

In order to “claim” his supposed lottery winnings, the letter asks him to provide a lot of personal information and bank account details.

“I have to name my bank. My bank account number,” Culberton tells WATE 6 On Your Side. “Then they want your next of kin, your relatives. You must sign it, date it, and they must have it by December 20th.”

Another red flag – Culberton was not asked to send money by wire transfer or money pack cards. But the letter says if he provides his banking information, 10% of his winnings will go to a claims agent.

Culberton doesn’t have a computer and mainly communicates via phone and mail. WATE 6 On Your Side showed him a website with information on lottery scams, those sent by the thousands during the holidays.

The web page tells you how this scam works, what to look for, warning signs.

Culberton says when he first saw the letter, he thought it was real.

“This is the time of the year when a lot of this seems to come to the forefront,” says Better Business Bureau of East Tennessee CEO Tony Binkley.

At the Better Business Bureau, Tony Binkley says the the bureau’s research shows con artists use the names of legitimate overseas lotteries, like the one sent to Mr. Culberton.

“They’ll get you to pay the taxes or a customs fee. Or, to make it easier, just give us your banking information and we’ll deposit the money and you can pay the fee out of that. Once you do that, your identity, your banking information is gone,” Binkley said.

Culberton wants to help warn the public of the scam.

“I think the public needs to be aware of this type of lottery,” he said. “They’re going to be the winners and not the person who received the letter.”

Some things to remember

  • If you haven’t entered a lottery or a competition, you can’t win it. You have to enter to be eligible.
  • Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee to collect winnings.
  • If you’ve won something, it’s free – after Uncle Sam collects his share.
  • If someone asks you to pay money upfront in order to receive a prize or winnings – it’s almost always a scam.

MORE | WATE 6 On Your Side Investigations

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