Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
This past week has been extremely lucky for me. Just check my e-mail. Perhaps I shouldn't spill the beans just yet, but I just can't keep it quiet. I am a winner. Yup, you heard it here first. It's probably a record too. I have won 16 lotteries, totaling $96,460,000 (that's 95.46 million dollars), just in the past week. I have the e-mails to prove it. The lotteries are in London, Nigeria, Malaysia, and South Africa, and come from Microsoft, the Catholic Church in France, and BMW. The Swiss Fundation [sic] awarded me the Doron Prize of nearly $5 million. I don't even play the Minnesota Lottery, so I must be lucky indeed to have won so many foreign lotteries, all in the same week. But that's not all. It seems that I have several rich relatives around the world. They died overseas, and it's taken years to track me down as the heir to their vast bank fortunes, but they found me. Incredible! There are also many dormant bank accounts around the world, and somehow I was chosen to receive the money. I may have inherited another $293 million. I have also been selected, based on Internet profiles I didn't even know I had, to help in a number of business partnerships. And several dying widows want me to help place their fortunes in some charity or other, and I get to keep a percentage of their money. That's a percentage of $325,215,000 or so.
Oh, and an American Marine wants me to help him sneak some of Saddam's treasures out of Iraq, in return for a "cut" of the loot. Captain Morgan has chosen me to help. That's another $10.57 million. And then, if I really did want to keep working, I have had 30 very lucrative job offers that just came this week. All I have to do is a few hours of computer work each week - mostly taking credit card payments and accepting and re-routing packages. I could do several of these part-time jobs and easily make $10,000 or more a week. Wow, I really am lucky. If I choose not to work after I collect my many millions, I've just learned that there are several ATM cards and bank checks just waiting for my address so they can be sent. Some of the e-mails even threaten legal action if I don't claim the money. Each of these nine ATM cards and waiting bank checks is worth between $4.8 and $15.5 million. I didn't even know they made them that big! I seem to have problems with my bank security, though. I have received 64 e-mail messages asking me to verify my bank information; and I didn't even know I had accounts in these banks. Of course, I do find it a little strange that, of all these e-mails telling me how lucky I am, not a single one knew my name. They don't even know where to mail my winnings, or what my occupation is. But as soon as I e-mail them that information (plus my bank account and routing numbers), I'll surely get the money. I've even received e-mails from the FBI, the IRS, and the United Nations. Apparently, there are funds set aside for victims of e-mail scams. It seems I'm eligible for part of nearly a billion dollars in reparations. I'm sure there will be fees involved, lawyers to pay off, and shipping fees for those checks and ATM cards. But that's okay. After all, I'm getting as much as $1.5 Billion dollars, just as soon as those minor fees are paid. Right? But how much will I have to pay, and how will I know? I mean, if they have my bank account information, they can withdraw money as they need it. But what if it's not enough? Oh, shoot, what if they find out I'm not an executive-type with a big bank account? What if I can't pay all the fees? What if they realize that I'm a middle-aged woman living in rural America who has (or had) to work for a living? Wait a minute. Why would the Queen of England's foundation have a Yahoo e-mail address? International banks and lawyers use free Hotmail accounts now? Many of the e-mails came from free e-mail accounts like gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail; and the rest came from weird e-mail addresses that didn't match who the senders said they were. These 150 lucky e-mails wouldn't lie ... would they? The reality is that all of these e-mails are scams. They're "phishing" for my bank information, and they'd probably take credit card payments (up to my credit limit) once my bank account is emptied.
I can't win any lottery that I haven't played in. And I'm not going to find out about an inheritance or a fantastic job offer via anonymous e-mail. And the job offers are bogus too. In the best case, they'll send me a big (fake) cashier's check, ask me to cash it at my bank, keep some of it and send the rest of it back to them. The phony cashier's check scam. Only these days, I'd probably have to pay the bank the full amount when the cashier's check bounces. In the worst case, working for them I'd get involved in their criminal activity, processing stolen credit cards, and re-shipping equipment purchased with stolen credit cards. Several months ago, someone somehow got my bank debit card number and used it to buy an expensive laptop computer from a Web site in Germany. They had it shipped to some unsuspecting sap who accepted the shipment, re-packaged it and shipped it to the real crook who then probably sold it on eBay to yet another unsuspecting person. I was lucky this time, I guess. We caught it early and cancelled that card, and I was protected (this time) against the fraudulent purchase. Every week, Minnesotans are barraged by millions of scam e-mails, and dozens of Minnesotans fall victim to them. Offers that are too good to be true, lots of money for nothing. Hard to resist? Not when you hear of the devastation these scams can cause. The elderly are particular targets, and many of the e-mails are worded to get older people suckered in; then they are threatened and coerced for more and more money. Several individuals have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Life savings - even homes - gone in a flash. And no one has ever collected on the billions of dollars promised. You can help prevent these tragedies. For one, make sure your older loved ones are aware of these scams. Don't let a friend or relative become the next victim. These scammers can be shrewd; they know what they're doing and how to drain their
victims "dry". Second, don't ever, EVER, give out your personal information by e-mail. If an e-mailer doesn't even know your name, he or she certainly doesn't deserve your bank information. Third, common scams can easily be checked out on-line. I use www.snopes.com and urbanlegends.about.com to check out scams and on-line rumors floating around. Before you forward that e-mail about getting paid to use e-mail, winning gift cards, or digging up vicious "dirt" on someone in public life, check it out. Lastly, the State of Minnesota can help. About a year ago, a hotline was established for Minnesotans who are victims of scams, whether they come by e-mail, postal mail, fax, or phone call. It's (800) 333-2433, the Minnesota Board of Aging LinkAge line. Call to report if you or a loved one has been scammed.
Mail original fraudulent documents to the DPS Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division, 444 Cedar St., Suite 133, St. Paul MN 55101. You can also forward scam e-mails to
. A team of state employees logs and categorizes the e-mails, then investigates the scams. They have been successful in prosecuting several of these criminals (and they are criminals), and have even found Minnesotans among the criminals. DON'T reply to the scam e-mail; that just moves you onto a "live sucker" list. Minnesota is taking this seriously, and dedicated this first-of-a-kind team to protect its citizens. A number of agencies and organizations are coordinated in this unprecedented effort. But prevention and caution is the key. While the state has been able to pin down and prosecute a few of the criminals, most of the victims' money is quickly sent out of the country and is nearly impossible to recover.
Even though I'm not a gazillionaire, I'm still lucky - I didn't fall for these scams. It looks like I'll have to get back to work, though. At least for this week. Maybe I'll check my e-mail first ...