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January 2003

Dillon Issues Alert
On Internation Sweepstakes Fraud

Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon today issued a consumer alert regarding an international sweepstakes fraud that has recently targeted at least one Nassau resident.

"A letter is being circulated," Dillon explained, "purporting to be from the El Gordo Sweepstakes Lottery Company in Madrid, Spain, informing the letter recipients that they have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in the El Gordo Spanish lottery. They are told to 'keep this award top secret from public information' due to a 'mix up of some of the numbers,' and are urged to contact a claim agent at an overseas telephone number. When they do so they are asked to provide personal banking information as well as other personal information.

"Once victims show interest in trying to collect their 'winnings,' they will be asked to provide money in advance to cover administrative costs. In addition, the victims' bank information and void checks can be used or modeled to create counterfeit checks and clean out the victims' bank accounts, and the other personal information requested can be used to commit identity fraud, enabling the scammers to pose as applicants to obtain credit cards and fraudulently purchase merchandise.

"The perpetrators of this fraud are obviously relying on victims confusing it with the legitimate national Spanish lottery that is nick-named 'El Gordo' ('the Fat One'). Potential victims should keep in mind the following:

  • Legitimate El Gordo lottery tickets can only be purchased from authorized ticket sellers in Spain. If you have not made such a purchase, you cannot have won a prize in the El Gordo lottery;

  • Legitimate lotteries do not ask winners to pay out money in order to collect their winnings;

  • You should never provide any personal information to a company or an individual whom you do not know.

"Most importantly, the El Gordo Sweepstake Lottery Company is not a legitimate organization. If you receive one of their fraudulent letters – or any similar material which you deem suspicious – I urge you to immediately contact our Criminal Frauds Bureau at (516) 571-3343."