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September 12, 2012

LITTLE ROCK - A new variation of an age-old scam has been reported throughout Arkansas in recent weeks, leaving consumers uneasy about the possibility that con artists may be paying a visit to their homes.

The twist on the common "international lottery" scam involves unsolicited telephone calls in which the caller promises to have someone from their organization meet a consumer at his or her residence to present them with their "winnings," usually a car.

This approach is unsettling to consumers who have received such calls and are concerned that the scam artists may know where they live. Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to make sure consumers avoid this scam and reassure Arkansans that they need not expect visits to their home.

"Fortunately, despite the assurances of the scam artist, no one is going to show up at your door," McDaniel said. "Unfortunately, this is only an effort to get hard-working consumers to wire money to criminals, and consumers will not receive a car or more money in return."

McDaniel's Consumer Protection Division has received numerous complaints in the past month regarding the scam, which originates with a phone call from a number with an 876 area code. That area code is based in Jamaica, even though it may appear to consumers that it is a U.S. number.

When consumers answer the call, the scam artist typically states that the consumer has won the lottery and the lottery organization has representatives in the area to bring a new vehicle to the consumer's residence. However, the consumer first must wire money to pay processing fees and taxes associated with the "prize."

The scammer's goal is to make the pitch believable by promising that a new car would be delivered within minutes, prompting a consumer to wire money that he or she would probably never see again. Actually, the calls are generally made randomly and the caller has no idea who he is calling or where the consumer is located.

Consumers who receive such calls should write down the number the call originated from and report the call to the Consumer Protection Division, McDaniel said. Consumers who receive threats or feel threatened should contact local law enforcement.

The Division receives hundreds of calls every year about "international lottery" winnings. Most often, consumers receive notice regarding their supposed lottery wins through mail or e-mail. Consumers are nearly always told to wire a sum of money as a processing fee in order to receive lottery winnings, which never arrive.

McDaniel said consumers should always remember that wiring money is like sending cash, and once money is wired, it's nearly impossible to get back. That's particularly true when wiring money to a foreign country, which the Attorney General advised consumers never to do.

For more information about the newest iteration of the common "international lottery" scam, or for other consumer-related information, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341, or visit the Consumer Protection Division's website,