Thieves target Lee, Collier residents in lotto scam

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- Over the last several months, con artists have used a phony lottery ticket scam to steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims in Lee and Collier counties, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.

The suspects are posing as lotto winners in what is often called the “Latin Lotto or Pigeon Drop” scam.

Detectives say the victims were approached by multiple suspects, believed to be working as a team, who claim they are winners of the lottery but need help from the victim in order to collect their winnings.

The suspects say they do not have valid identification or need to show they have money in order to claim the millions they have won, deputies said.

The thieves then offer to sell the winning ticket to the victim or ask for money or other valuables as a “deposit” or “collateral,” with the promise of splitting the winning jackpot with the victim, deputies said.

The suspects also use tactics such as pretending to call a lottery representative, who is also part of the scheme, in order to confirm the ticket they are holding is a winner.

Deputies are warning the public to:

  • Never redeem a lottery ticket for someone you don’t know.
  • Never take the word of anyone offering a winning lotto ticket in exchange for your cash, jewelry or other merchandise.
  • Never give anyone your cash or possessions to be used as collateral to collect fraudulent winnings.

If anyone has any information about the crime, call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward.

If you have been a victim of the scam, or know someone who has been victimized, call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at 239-477-1000 to file a report.

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