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Lodi police urge residents to beware of lottery scam

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Posted: Saturday, September 3, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 7:22 am, Tue Sep 6, 2011.

If you get a letter in a Costco envelope with information about winning a lottery hosted by Enterprise Holdings Inc., don't cash the Wells Fargo check enclosed.

The scam is one of countless hustles occurring around the country, and it preys on people's desire for quick cash, said Officer Heather Metcalf of the Lodi Police Department.

The latest scheme was brought to the attention of local law enforcement officers when a Galt resident who works in Lodi came to the Lodi Police Department this week with a letter claiming she'd won $125,000 in a lottery recently held in the United Kingdom. The woman, who requested not to be publicly identified, knew the letter was a scam and wanted the police to be aware of it, Metcalf said.

The scam features a check from Wells Fargo for $3,980 that is "for the payment of applicable Government Taxes on your big winnings," according to the letter. The "applicable taxes" are for $1,980 that are to be paid to a claim agent whose number is listed in the letter. A Wells Fargo official stressed the public use logic if they find a similar letter in their mailbox.

"You can't win a lottery or sweepstakes if you never entered it," said Julie Campbell, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo. "Be suspicious of any scheme where you're asked to pay money in order to receive a larger sum of money."

While no victims in Lodi have been reported in this recent scheme, the police department is urging residents to exercise caution when they receive mail claiming they are entitled to a financial windfall.

"It used to be that the people doing this were just targeting the elderly," Metcalf said. "But now it appears to be evening out because we're getting more reports from young people."

Enterprise Holdings operates rental car companies including Alamo, Enterprise and National. The company's official website, www.enterpriseholdings.com, has a link on its website announcing that the letter is a scam, and recipients should not call the number listed on it.

"The check is fake and didn't come from Enterprise ... If you received a counterfeit check or have been a victim of this scam, you should contact your local authorities or the FBI immediately," the announcement reads.

Even people who know the letters are scams still sometimes play along, Metcalf said.

"We had one victim, a 24-year-old mother, who said she knew a similiar letter was a scam but cashed the check anyway because she believed the bank would just absorb the costs," she said. "But the bank will draw the money from your account; then you're out the money plus an additional return check fee."

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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