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Home » News » Crime

July 06. 2014 7:58PM

Scammers play off Lottery phone calls

A lottery player gets a call from the New Hampshire Lottery to inform her she’s won a Lottery prize.

A scam? Not necessarily.

Lottery officials admitted last week — contrary to their statements earlier in the week — that the Lottery does in fact telephone the winners of some lottery games.

In fact, lottery officials called several winners of the Lucky Summer Cash Kickoff game on June 30, the day before they issued a press release warning of scammers who use promises of a lottery jackpot to try to swindle New Hampshire residents over the telephone. In the press release, Lottery officials said they do not place calls to winners.

A Lottery spokesman said they wouldn’t expect people to be confused over the call from the Lottery about second-chance games and from a scammer about a big-jackpot game such as MegaMillions, whose players are unknown to the Lottery.

“There is a difference between winning on a lottery ticket and a second chance promotion,” said Maura McCann, spokesman for the Lottery, who said she made some of the calls to the Lucky Summer winners on Monday.

“The calls that we make have the details of the promotion, and we verify (the winner),” she said.

The state’s consumer-protection chief, whose office is investigating the scam, said people who play the second-chance games could be susceptible to a scammer. That’s because they’re expecting a call from the Lottery.

“If they (the Lottery) are in fact calling, it becomes more confusing for consumers to figure out what’s legitimate and what isn’t,” said James Boffetti, a senior assistant attorney general and head of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau.

He said he was unaware of the second-chance games or how they’re played.

McCann said the Lottery runs five to 10 second-chance games a year. Anyone who spends more than $5 when purchasing a lottery ticket is given an entry blank, which asks for their name, address and telephone number.

Players fill in the entry blank and mail it to Lottery headquarters. For the Lucky Summer game, 147,000 entry blanks were generated, McCann said. She did not know how many people completed the form and sent it in.

The game paid one prize of $10,000, taxes paid. It also paid three $5,000 prizes, 10 prizes of $1,000 and 50 prizes of $100. McCann said the Lottery contacted people winning $1,000 or more for tax purposes.

Following is a comparison of the two calls:

• Lottery officials call a second-chance game winner, ask for the person named in the entry form, and asks the person if she played the second-chance game. If she confirms doing so, the Lottery caller tells her she’s won. The winner either has to come to Lottery headquarters or send in a photocopy of a picture ID, her Social Security number and tax forms.

McCann said the Lottery does not ask for the Social Security number over the telephone.

• A scammer gives his mark a telephone number and tells him to call it to claim a prize. That call is answered by a cloned New Hampshire Lottery phone recording. A scammer tells the caller he has won a significant prize, such as a second-place $5 million prize, and it will be delivered the following day. Instructions then follow about how to deposit tax payments to a bogus Bank of America account.

In a statement put out last Tuesday, Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre said: “We remind our players that the New Hampshire Lottery does not place calls to winners because Lottery winners are anonymous until they come forward and claim their prize.”

McCann said McIntyre’s statement did not refer to second-chance games.

The Lottery lists the winners of all its lottery games on the New Hampshire Lottery website.

Boffetti acknowledged those names are good prospects for a scam.

“It appears a lot of these scam artists are becoming very adept at finding information and targeting people,” he said. But he said that danger has to be weighed against the public’s right to know who lottery winners are, and McCann said releasing the names of winners adds to the integrity of the Lottery.

Last month, Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed a bill that would have prohibited disclosure of the names of winners. At the time, the governor said transparency was paramount to ensuring continued trust and confidence in the Lottery.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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