Marylanders duped in lottery scheme to get refunds

BALTIMORE - Lottery schemes have been a common topic on Scam Alert.  But this week, some good news for Marylanders snared with a bogus prize.

The notices were hard to ignore, claiming you've won more than $3,000,000.  And Marylanders who got them just had to send back $20-bucks to claim their fortune.  Deputy Attorney General Phil Ziperman says, "What we always tell people is you shouldn't be making any payments to claim a prize.  That's illegal."

That's why the Maryland Attorney General's office went after the Las Vegas company that scammed more than 700 Marylanders with this scheme.  Ziperman says, "This is an absolute victory for consumers.  The company is no longer doing business in Maryland."

The company, which used the name Prize Information Bureau, sent out official looking paperwork to people in Maryland several years back, claiming to be part of the State of Maryland Commissioners of Registration, an agency that doesn't even exist. 

The Attorney General's office won the case back in 2010, which resulted in a $25,000 fine for the company.  In addition, $20 refunds were recently secured for the hundreds of Marylanders who sent a payment for the bogus prize.  Ziperman says, "In this case the violations were fairly obvious.  The company had lied about who they were and was committing an obvious violation of law, but we're pleased that we recovered all the money consumers were owed."

The Attorney General's office considers this a win against this company, but experts say this lottery scam isn't unique.  You may get a phone call or a mailer, even an email claiming you've won big but have to pay a small price to collect.  If that's the case, the company is breaking the law so hang up or throw out the offer, because you won't win a prize.

People who lost money in this scam should be contacted by the Attorney General's office and sent a form to return.  If you don't get one and believe you were harmed in this scheme, you should contact their office to get more information.

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