Euromilliones Loteria International was pleased to inform us, their letter said, that we'd just won $815,960 in the Spanish Sweepstake. And we didn't even remember buying a ticket.
Such letters are not uncommon, according to the state attorney general's office, whom we told about our good fortune even though Euromilliones Loteria International had advised us to keep our winnings "top secret from public notice."
"Spain, Germany and Australia are popular fake locations for these non-existent sweepstakes," the a.g.'s e-mail said. "One scheme involves asking a consumer to deposit the 'winning' check and then wiring money back for some sort of processing or claim fee. Another might have a number for a consumer to call to claim winnings, and during the call the consumer will be given instructions on wiring the claim/processing fee. It's also possible that this is a phishing scheme by which a consumer would call a number and be asked for bank account info on the premise that the 'winnings' can be directly deposited."
Sure enough, our letter from the sweepstake said we'd have to pay 10 percent of our winnings to our claims agent, and that we'd begin the process of collecting our winnings by calling that very claims agent, Mr. Diego Sanchez, at 01134 658 719 571. We didn't get around to it.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sends a form letter to the many Arkansans who inquire about international lottery/sweepstake mailings they've received. His letter advises that the mailings are "scams designed to separate you from your money." Because almost all of the scams are based outside the United States, the attorney general has no real legal recourse against them, a spokesman said.