Volume 2 Number 21
May 23, 2005





Crooks convince people to help cash worthless tickets
A senior citizen from Naples was recently scammed outside of a grocery store in a fake lottery ticket swindle. Lottery ticket scams are not new - they are a derivative of the classic "pigeon drop," an example of a confidence game.
In a confidence game you are persuaded to buy worthless property. The expression "con man" originated from these types of frauds. There are three parties involved in confidence games, the con artist, an accomplice called a shill and the victim who is called a mark or pigeon.
The lottery ticket scam works like this:
You are approached on the street by someone who claims to have won the lottery. The swindler has the winning lottery ticket in his hand and shows it to you. The con man (or woman) wants you to cash in the ticket because he/she can't for a variety of reasons.
In Florida, there have been cases where the swindler said he couldn't cash in the ticket because he didn't have proper identification. In other situations, the swindler indicated he was an illegal alien and that's why he couldn't redeem it.
While the two of you are having a conversation the accomplice shows up. The shill apologizes for butting in and explains that he overheard your remarks and wants to help, for a cut of the winnings.
The accomplice explains that he has a friend who is a lawyer or accountant who works nearby and who has experience in this area. The shill then suggests that the money can be shared three ways after it has been safeguarded for a month or so.
At this point the con man promises you and the accomplice part of the winnings if you help him. You are convinced to put up "good faith" money to assure you won't run off with the winning ticket. If you agree, the crooks wait while you go home or to your bank for the money. The amount fronted is usually hundreds to thousands of dollars. Once you hand over the cash the con man and shill disappear and you are stuck with a worthless lottery ticket.
Right now you may be saying to yourself that you would never fall for a scam like this. Unfortunately, scenarios like this play out regularly in every state that runs a lottery. Pigeon drop perpetrators are extremely mobile and travel quickly from city to city and state to state. Along the way they defraud gullible people.
In Florida these travelers show up more frequently during our busy tourist season. They make their way from the top of the state around Jacksonville, work their way down to Miami, over to Marco Island/Naples and then up the west coast to large cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Victims of confidence schemes rarely complain to the police because they are too embarrassed to report the crime. As long as people are willing to help others during a time of need the scams will continue to surface. To protect yourself from lottery ticket confidence games remember these tips:
•Never redeem a lottery ticket for a stranger.
•Don't give out your credit card number over the phone to anyone promising lottery cash prizes or memberships.
•Never respond to a letter, phone call or e-mail from someone who guarantees you will win a prize.
•Don't accept a collect phone call from someone claiming to be a lottery official.
•Don't allow someone to "enter your name" in a foreign lottery or sweepstake.
•Do not give personal information out over the phone unless you are 100 percent certain the information will not be misused.

Lake County, the 43rd county, was established  May 27, 1887, being taken from Orange and Sumter counties and named for the large number of lakes within its boundaries. The courthouse, above, was built in 1924.