"Long Shot" - U.S. Postal Inspection Service Video

United States Postal Inspection Service2004

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum
Washington, DC, United States

It sounds exotic and exciting – playing the lottery in another country. Sure it’s a long shot. But if you win, you could pay off your debt, travel the world and make all of your dreams come true. Truth is that foreign lotteries really are a nightmare. This US Postal Inspection Service video tells the story of a lottery fraud victim and the con man behind the scam. It also provides tips to help you avoid becoming duped by this fraud.

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  • Title: "Long Shot" - U.S. Postal Inspection Service Video
  • Creator: United States Postal Inspection Service
  • Date Created: 2004
  • Transcript: This is the worst part of the job. You get a call from someone, and they sound desperate. In this case, it's the daughter of an elderly woman named Margaret Bergman. Mrs. Bergman is a retired schoolteacher. Lives in a nursing home. Has trouble breathing. Daughter's got her hands full raising two kids and trying to take care of her mom, too. She called us after visiting her mom one afternoon. She found a lot of mail from the Spanish Sweepstakes, the London Lotto, and the Australian Lottery. Her mom's checkbook had a lot of entries for tickets. No deposits of the winnings, though. Names are different, but I've heard the story before. Crooks tell people they can make money playing the lottery in foreign countries. They promise better odds, tax-free winnings. Make it easy to play. You can call their toll-free number. Send them a check or use your credit card. Some of them even set up websites. They promise to hold the tickets and send winnings overnight. Yeah, they promise a lot of things but deliver nothing. Their ads don't mention it's illegal to play a foreign lottery in the United States. If you play even once, your name will go on a suckers list, and you'll get a mailbox full of scam offers. They also forget to mention that instead of winning, some people lose everything. This is the worst part of the job. Best part is putting away the people who do this. I didn't know who had taken Mrs. Bergman's savings yet, but I knew his luck was about to change. That looks like him. Mr. James Brunin, U.S. Postal Inspector Michele Niece. Give us some room. This is an outrage. I'm celebrating my anniversary. If you come to my office tomorrow, we can discuss this. Let's not make this difficult. You want me to call my lawyers? They know how to handle this sort of thing. Make sure Theresa gets home. I'll call you later. This is ridiculous. It's policy that we cuff everybody. Mr. Brunin, I ask that you not make any sudden movements. Do you have any sharp objects or weapons on you, sir? Mr. Brunin, I might be willing to discuss a plea, but that would depend on the information you have for all of us. I suggest you answer the inspector's questions, and then we can talk about your situation later. I might be willing to drop the RICO count. Give us the rundown on this Australian Lottery. How does this work? Well, that's really quite simple. We print up flashy brochures and send it out to our list. What list? You know, our mailing list. Older people, usually. Retirees, snowbirds vacationing in Florida. That sort of thing. Anyway, we tell them that they can play the lottery in Spain or Canada or Australia. We tell them the odds are better playing the lottery overseas than if they played the Powerball here. So people will buy 10, 20 tickets. Once they bite on that one, we'll put them on another list. A new one for suckers. And we'll send another half-dozen mailings, usually, telling them about the Irish Sweepstakes or English Lotto. Usually, they'll bite on that one, too. So you're strictly small-time. Just a few bucks here and there. Hardly. See, once we really get them to bite, then we call them and tell them they've won. Only we need a couple thousand dollars to pay off the taxes on their winnings before we can send them a check. You'd be surprised at how easy it is. What's your role in all this, Mr. Brunin? We know the checks don't come to you. Not directly, anyway. Well, I'll usually set up a small shop somewhere, give it a fancy name like International Exports, Inc., and hire a couple of guys to pick up the mail, cash checks. Maybe somebody else to work the phones. Then what? We'll add their name to the suckers list and then sell it for big bucks to another operation. You realize you're talking about organized crime, don't you? This isn't "The Sopranos," all right? These are just people exchanging legitimate mailing lists, which is not against the law, last time I checked. It doesn't bother you taking money from these people? Why should it? These people are greedy themselves. They've got piles of money lying around, and they want to get rich quick. It's my duty to take this money from them. Besides, if I didn't do it, some other guy would. So, if you're through sitting in judgment, let's get to the chase. Do we have a deal or what? Mr. Brunin, you haven't told us anything that we don't know yet. I'm going to need a list of all your associates. Including the names of the folks that gave you this mailing list and those that you sell it to. We'll see what you have to trade, and we'll discuss a plea. Write it up. We'll check back in a few minutes. Currently, Brunin's serving five years in a Federal prison as part of his plea agreement. Unfortunately, postal inspectors intercept millions of pieces of mail every year promoting foreign lotteries. But many more make it through to consumers and trick people into the scam. There are some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim. One. Remember, it's illegal to play a foreign lottery in the U.S. If you do, you're breaking the law. Two. There are no secrets to winning a foreign lottery. In fact, the lotteries usually don't even exist. Three. If you purchase even one ticket, your name will be added to a suckers list. You'll start receiving lots of offers from bogus lotteries or investment opportunities. These crooks actually buy and sell these mailing lists to aid their scams. Four. Keep credit-card numbers, bank accounts, and other personal information to yourself. Scam artists often ask for these on the phone. Lastly. If you've been the victim of one of these scams, you need to report it. Contact your local United States Postal Inspector. You can find us in the phone book or on our website at USPS.COM/POSTALINSPECTORS. Remember, if you're tempted to play a foreign lottery, you won't win anything. But you may lose it all.
  • External Link: Behind the Badge: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Transcripción en español