Inspection Service Home Page NEWS RELEASE
National Public Information Officer

June 3, 2009

Contact: Postal Inspector Peter R. Rendina, 202-268-3700,

Postal Inspectors Warn Consumers About Foreign Lottery Scams

Here’s a hot tip from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on playing foreign lotteries by mail: “Don’t Do It!”

First, it's illegal. A federal statute prohibits mailing any lottery materials through the mail, including solicitation letters and payments to purchase any ticket, share, or chance in a foreign lottery. The only exemption to the federal law is related to state authorities conducting their own state lottery.

And second, it's impractical. Playing foreign lotteries is not like playing your state's lottery.

For one thing, you can’t be certain you will obtain the ticket you paid for. Typically, those who pay the required fees never see any lottery tickets issued by the government-operated lottery they are hoping to enter — despite receiving some form of “entry confirmation” — because most foreign lottery solicitations sent to addressees in the United States do not come from foreign government agencies or licensees.

Instead, they come from "bootleggers" who seek exorbitant fees from those wishing to play. The bootleggers’ activities are neither controlled nor monitored by the government of the country in which they are located.

In another twist to foreign lottery schemes, fraudsters send you a fake check or money order as your “winnings,” instructing you to cash it and send them a portion of the proceeds to cover taxes and handling fees. Many consumers don’t know they, not the bank, are responsible for depositing a bad check.

According to Chief Postal Inspector William R. Gilligan Jr., “Not only is it important to recognize a foreign lottery scam — it is paramount that this type of swindle is reported so that Postal Inspectors, along with their federal, state and local partners, can begin an investigation.”

Report a suspected foreign lottery scam to Postal Inspectors at 1-877-876-2455 or use the on-line Mail Fraud Complaint Form at You can also report foreign lottery scams to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit


About the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country. For more than 200 years, Postal Inspectors have protected the U.S. Postal Service, secured the nationís mail system, and ensured public trust in the mail. To learn more, visit

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