By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — If you got a check in the mail with a letter informing you that you have won big bucks in the lottery, state Sen. Marty Golden has some bad news for you. The check is a fake and you didn't really win.
Golden and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are warning residents to be on guard against a new type of lottery scam arriving in their mailboxes.
"Some scams look so real that you would never suspect any wrongdoing and it appears to be the case here," Golden said.
"If you receive one of these fraudulent checks, please report it to my office immediately," DiNapoli urged residents.
This is how the sophisticated scam works: The crooks send a potential victim a letter and a check telling the person he or she has won a lottery or a sweepstakes drawing. The person receiving the check is instructed to send the crooks money in order to collect the "full winnings."
In many cases, the victim has already wired the money before he or she discovers that the check sent by the crooks is fraudulent, said DiNapoli, who added that the funds that have been wired to the scammers cannot be retrieved.
DiNapoli said the letters are from scam artists representing themselves as being from a company called "Guaranty Trust Inc.," with a New York City mailing address, or "Golden Gateway Financial, Division of Unclaimed Funds," with either a Las Vegas or a London address.
The letter includes a counterfeit New York State check bearing what appears to be the comptroller's signature, according to DiNapoli.
The signature is forged, he said.
The letter from "Golden Gateway Financial, Division of Unclaimed Funds" informs the recipient that he or she has won an "American Lottery Sweepstakes Millions" drawing. The letter writer claims to have been contacted by the "Multi State Lottery Association" to locate winners who have not yet claimed their prizes.
Golden said he is concerned about the possibility of residents in his Senate district falling prey to the scam artists and losing money.
"I am bringing to the attention of local residents a warning issued by State Comptroller DiNapoli so to make people aware and to put them on alert," he said.
One way to avoid being a victim is to follow a simple rule, DiNapoli said.
"An offer of easy money is usually too good to be true," he said, "And that is the case here."
Anyone who has received the letter and check is asked to call the comptroller's toll-free fraud hotline at (888) 672-4555. A complaint can also be filed online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents can also mail a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller Investigations Unit, 110 State St., 14th Floor, Albany, N.Y., 12236.
DiNapoli's office has also referred the matter to federal law enforcement.