Cyberscam strikes Massachusetts state lottery

Scam artists have spoofed the Web site of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission in an attempt to steal the personal and financial information from lottery players across the US.

The fake lottery Web site, www.mass-lottery.org, which was hosted by Clifton, N.Y.-based HostRocket.com, had been taken down by Wednesday afternoon. But the site, which was registered on June 13, was nearly identical to the Massachusetts Lottery Commission's official site, www.masslottery.com, according to lottery spokeswoman Amy Morris.

Morris said the spoofed site operators, believed to be in Nigeria, sent e-mails, as well as text messages via cell phones, to people telling them they had won US$30,000 in the Massachusetts State Lottery.

Once consumers clicked on a link contained in the e-mail or text message, they were taken to an official-looking Web site, asked to key in a user name and password, provided to them in the e-mail, and then asked to supply personal information, including a credit card number and a Social Security number, Morris said.

They were also asked to pay a $100 processing fee, she said.

According to Morris, about 200 people have notified the Lottery Commission about these e-mails since May, and some had given out their personal data. She said the Lottery Commission has no way of knowing how many other people may have fallen victim to the scam.

"In May there was another (spoof) Web site set up at www.mass-lotto.org, which has since been taken down," Morris said. "But we don't know how many others there might be."

Troy Irick, director of community relations at Huntington College, contacted lottery officials a couple weeks ago to alert them to the scam. Irick said he received an e-mail that read "from administrator," and when he opened it he was told he had won $30,000.

"I don't live anywhere near Massachusetts, and I don't play the lottery," he said. "But I was intrigued because when I clicked on the link I was taken to a Web site that looked almost identical to the Massachusetts State Lottery Web site."

Irick said red flags went up when he was asked for his personal information and asked to pay a processing fee in order to collect his winnings.

"They led you to believe you were selected in a charity-type game, and 10 percent of your winnings would go to charity," Irick said. "It smelled bad, so I did a Google search for the Massachusetts Web site and saw that they had a warning about these (scams) on their site, so I forwarded them the e-mail."

Morris said the Lottery Commission is working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to track down the perpetrators.

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