The Better Business Bureau is warning area residents about a new telephone lottery scam with a unique twist and a local victim who has lost more than $10,000.
The Lansing area resident tells BBB he received a call from Jay Adams of American Award Protection Agency, saying the Lansing man had won $350,000 in a sweepstakes.
However, he would need to pay $3,500 for insurance.
The victim was instructed to go to his local Bank of America branch at 5507 West Saginaw Hwy in Lansing and deposit $3,500 into a specific account. He was instructed to call the company after the deposit was made.
The "winner" did make the deposit and faxed the deposit receipt to American Award.
As with all scams, once they have you on the hook, they ask for more. So the victim received another call stating that the sweepstakes check was in Detroit, but was being held by U.S. Customs and that he would need to pay an additional $17,500 for the check to be released.
After some discussion, the company agreed that if the consumer paid $7,000 they would pay the remaining $10,500. The victim again went to Bank of America and deposited $7,000 into the same account.
So, now the scammers had $10,500, but they wanted to see if this could even get bigger, so on August 14th the consumer received another call stating that the grand prize winner was disqualified and that he was "bumped up" and was now the grand prize winner of $3.5 million -- however, he would now have to pay an additional $31,500 for insurance.
The victim told the company that he could not afford this amount and asked to just receive the $350,000 he had already won and for which he had already paid insurance and customs fees. Once he didn't pay them more, the scammers stopped returning calls, and the victim called BBB.
BBB contacted Bank of America and was able to confirm the account number is a valid, current Bank of America account under the name Dan Mercede.
BBB was also informed that the account was opened at a Fairfield, CT. Bank of America branch. Bank of America representatives told BBB they could not do anything with the information we provided, and informed BBB that the consumer should contact law enforcement.
The consumer did contact the FBI, but he reports he was told that because $10,500 is a relatively small amount, there was nothing they could do.
BBB guidance to avoid being scammed:
1. International lotteries are illegal in the United States.
2. Never pay someone to receive your prize.
3. Get advice from trustworthy people before you ever give confidential information or money to someone.