Consumer Alert: Foreign lottery scams rob kupuna of savings

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HONOLULU (KHON2) – Lottery scams are nothing new in Hawaii, but officials say they’re seeing an alarming amount of kupuna getting caught up in these schemes.

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The United States Postal Service says they receive dozens of reports, almost weekly, about elderly individuals sending cash to strangers on the mainland.

“We’ve had instances where victims have sent up to $500,000 over many years to individuals on the mainland who are also participating in the scheme,” said Brian Shaughnessy with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Officials refer to this as foreign lottery scams. These messages can come in forms of phone calls, emails, or in the mail.

“They can be promises of a vacation, a new car, or a fixed income. However, none of it is actually true. The perpetrators are typically overseas. So they’re using middlemen or middle individuals on the mainland, who once they received the funds from the victim here in Hawaii, they’re often wire transferring that money to an individual is in countries like Jamaica, Nigeria, or Great Britain.”

The Postal Service says there are a few red flags to look out for.

“Non-stop phone calls to the victim or unusual mailings lying around like receipts for either wire transfers or like overnight express mail receipts. Also, get involved with who their parents or their grandparents are in contact with. Also look for signs that they’ve established new lines of credit that don’t seem to really have any explanation.”

If the Postal Service catches any suspicious mailings early enough, they will intercept and return the funds to the victim. Officials also suggest filing a police report with local authorities.

For more information on mail scams to beware of, click here.

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