The Utah Division of Consumer Protection has issued a statewide alert cautioning Carbon County residents to avoid falling victim to scam involving unsolicited overseas mail targeting older citizens.
The statewide warning relates to letters that claim the recipient has won a cash prize in a Spanish lottery sweepstakes, called El Gordo, according to consumer protection officials.
Although El Gordo is an authentic Spanish lottery, the letters are part of a long running scam that operates out of Madrid and Barcelona, warned the consumer protection division.
The letter claims that the consumer holds a winning lottery number and has been approved to receive a substantial cash prize from a security company.
"Most people recognize this as a scam and will just throw this type of letter in the trash bin," explained Francine Giani, consumer protection director.
"But occasionally, someone will think they have hit the jackpot. The reality is if they take it any further they are throwing their money away," points out the consumer protection division director.
The letter advises recipients that they must make claims before a certain date and they should keep the information top secret until the claim is confirmed and their money paid.
The consumers are asked to contact a claim agent at an overseas telephone number and arrange to transfer the funds to an account of the individual's choice.
Once bank accounts and personal details have been provided, the scam operators send a request for money to cover taxes and transfer costs.
"We have seen this type of scam before," confirmed the consumer protection division director. "But recent inquiries suggest that the scam is active again in this area and Utah consumers, particularly older residents, are being targeted by these criminals."
Carbon County consumers should be especially wary about being informed they have won prizes or cash awards in contests they have not entered.
Lottery scams can have devastating financial effects on the individuals who fall victim to the fraudulent activities, stressed the consumer protection director.
"Consumers who receive calls telling them they've won a lottery from another country can be certain they are dealing with a swindler," warned Giani.
Federal law currently prohibits the use of mail to sell or buy lottery materials, including tickets, letters or circulars concerning a lottery, chances or shares in a lottery or payments to purchase such tickets, chances or shares.
The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigate fraudulent lottery solicitations.
To report a suspected fraudulent lottery scam, Carbon County consumers should contact the Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.