Authorities warn of lottery scam in Chula Vista

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Authorities warned the public Friday to beware of a well-established lottery scam that has resurfaced in Chula Vista in recent weeks.

The perpetrators of the scheme generally target retirement-age Hispanic women, often fleecing them out of thousands of dollars as well as jewelry or other valuables, according to police.

The crime begins when a woman unknown to the victim approaches her and strikes up a conversation, asking if there is a local government office or church that helps with immigration issues, CVPD  Lt. Fritz Reber said.

The con artist goes on to claim that the reason she needs assistance is because she’s won a lottery but cannot claim the prize because she is undocumented.

As the crook chats with the victim, a male accomplice appears and asks if he can help, pretending not to know his cohort and offering to drive the victim to an immigration office, Reber said.

The man proceeds to make a phone call, supposedly to confirm that the purported lottery ticket is valid. He then announces that claiming the lottery winnings — generally portrayed as in the tens of millions of dollars — will
require two witnesses and a $50,000 payment.

The swindlers then persuade the victim to come up with as much money or jewelry as possible to help them secure the prize, promising to give her part of the winnings in exchange.

After the victim turns over money or valuables, the thieves drop her off, point out a random home and tell her to contact someone there to complete their agreement. Then then drive off with their loot.

“Only then does the victim realize what has happened,” the lieutenant said.

The scam has cropped up locally “numerous times over the years,” including three times in the last two months, Reber said.

“It is also our understanding that many people who fall victim to this crime are embarrassed or afraid to report it to the police,” he added.

Authorities urge anyone encountering people making such claims to immediately contact law enforcement.

“Any time someone (claims to have) won the lottery but needs to pay fees or taxes first it is a scam,” Reber said.

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