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AG warns consumers about foreign lotteries

Associated Press

ST. PAUL — Standing before dozens of fraudulent cashier’s checks, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson warned consumers on Thursday against being taken by foreign lottery scams and other rip-off schemes.

Hundreds of consumers have complained to Swanson’s office after being duped or targeted by letters that say they won foreign lotteries such as El Gordo in Spain or the Australian Powerball. They get a real-looking cashier’s check as an advance, which they’re instructed to cash and then wire most of the money to pay taxes on winnings.

When the check bounces seven to 10 days later, the would-be winner’s cash is unrecoverable.

"Once your money’s gone, it’s gone for good," Swanson said. "You’re not going to get it back."

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Myrl Jehoich said he believed a letter claiming he won $800,000 in a Canadian lottery. He cashed the $4,600 cashier’s check and, per the instructions, wired $4,000 to cover taxes. He lost that sum and said he didn’t have enough to live on for a couple of months.

"I sure could use the money at my age," said Jehoich, 91, of Edina. "I fell for it."

Foreign lotteries are illegal in the United States and real lotteries never ask winners to cough up money before they get their payout, Swanson said.

Fake cashier’s checks are also used in another scam outlined by Swanson — when the counterfeiter poses as the buyer of a boat or car being sold online.

The supposed buyer sends a check for more than the sale price, and then asks the seller to wire back the excess amount so the sale won’t be delayed. The seller loses out when the check bounces.

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