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Lottery scam an "epidemic" in ND

North Dakota’s top state and federal law enforcement officials say  “lottery scams” are becoming an epidemic in North Dakota.

Attorney General Wayne Stenhejem says his office has received numerous complaints about this new twist on an old scam.

"The caller claims that the victim has won an international lottery," Stenehjem told a Bismarck news conference. "But those prizes, they say, cannot be delivered until money has been paid for taxes, or insurance, or handling fees."

Stenehjem says the scam artist instructs the recipient to purchase green-dot “money packs” – and then call a phone number and give the identifying number found on the back of those cards.

"These are cash cards," said Stenehjem. "Once you give out that number, it is as good as having cash in-hand. And the money is gone."

North Dakota US Attorney Tim Purdon says a lottery would never demand upfront payment for a prize. And he says the elderly are especially vulnerable to this kind of scam.

"I ask all of you to reach out to your elderly friends and neighbors, and make sure they know the dangers that accompany these sorts of lottery scams," said Purdon. "Talk to them about what they should do if they get one of the calls. And the answer is -- hang up, hang up, hang up."

Fifteen people are facing federal charges in connection with lottery scams. And Purdon says the investigation is continuing.

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