The Louisiana Lottery Corporation warned citizens today about a lottery scam being run under the name "Multi-State Lottery Inc.", which is similar to the legitimate Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) that operates Powerball on behalf of 30 member lotteries.

In the scam, potential victims receive a letter notifying them of their "win" from Multi-State Lottery, Inc.  Enclosed with the letter is a check for roughly $5,000, which is drawn on an empty account. The letter indicates that the check is "a portion of your winnings to help you pay any legal, insurance or processing fees you may encounter." The letter then directs the recipient to contact the company to fulfill other "requirements" so that they can receive the rest of their "prize."

"In these types of scams, the victim cashes the bad check then sends in the money the company requires for processing fees," explained Bill Cox, vice president of security for the Louisiana Lottery. "Unfortunately, the check bounces after the victim has already paid those fees and the 'winnings' that were promised are never received."

This scam letter contains an Iowa address and two phone numbers. One is a toll-free number that asks for an "authorization code." The second one, out of British Columbia in Canada,is answered by a machine requesting the caller to leave a message. 

Scammers often set up short-term telephone numbers that are difficult to trace," said Cox. This number is set up through a Canadian calling card company." 

The letter also instructs victims to keep the procedures "confidential" to protect their "best interests." 

"This is a common ploy used by scam artists," explained Cox. "They don't want the potential victim to tell family members or authorities who might raise red flags."

He also warned that consumers should never give credit cards, social security numbers, bank account numbers or other personal information to a business promising a lottery prize.  

"Legitimate lotteries require winners to purchase a ticket and do not guarantee that an individual will win a prize, nor do they require winners to pay money to collect a prize. There is no secret system to winning a lottery prize and people who promise that are not being truthful," he said.

The Lottery has not received any complaints from its players about this particular scam, but it urges consumers to report any suspicious lottery materials they receive to its Security Department at 1-800-735-5825, to the Louisiana Attorney General's Office at 225-342-7013 or to the Federal Trade Commission at to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP. More information about lottery scams can be found in brochures located in Lottery play centers at retailer establishments throughout the state.