The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is warning residents to be careful of the “Advanced Fee Lottery Scam.” Scammers are actively working in Santa Clara County and recently stole more than $50,000 from an elderly resident in Morgan Hill.

A quick and comprehensive investigation by the Morgan Hill Police and the District Attorney’s Office ended up with an outcome almost as a rare winning ticket: the victim got back almost all of his money.

The scam works like this: you get a call saying that you have won some sort of sweepstakes or lottery. The caller explains that in order to get the substantial winnings, you need to quickly send a sum of money that will cover fees or taxes. Although the victim sends the money, they never receive the winnings.

The District Attorney’s (D.A.’s) Office cautions residents that they should never agree to pay anything upfront for a lottery or sweepstakes. While we all want to win the lottery, the D.A.’s Office says the odds of losing your life savings to a criminal are higher.

Some tips to recognize the scam:

  • All sweepstakes do not require money up-front.
  • Companies like Publishers Clearing House never contact winners by telephone or email. Their policy is to contact winners by U.S. mail.
  • If you have never entered a sweepstakes, then you will not be contacted claiming you are a winner.

What to do if you have been contacted and/or have paid money:

  • Confirm what is being told to you by contacting the company by independent means. Ask for the name of the company. Call Law Enforcement or the District Attorney’s Office to see if this is legitimate.
  • If you have sent money, and realize you have been scammed, immediately call your bank or wiring company to see if the transfer of funds can be reversed.
  • The criminals behind this scam are generally offshore, utilizing local “money mules” to insulate themselves from detection.

Call your local law enforcement agency, or the District Attorney’s Office Elder Fraud Unit Hotline 1 (855)-DA-Elder 1 (855) 323-5337 to report this.

If you are suspicious that an older adult was victimized, call the Santa Clara County Adult Protective Services Agency at 1 (800) 414-2002. Reports can be confidential.

If you are interested in learning more about protecting yourself from these lottery or sweepstakes scam, speak with a Community Resource Specialist: (408) 350-3200, option 1.