OTTUMWA — If Donna McDaniel of rural Ottumwa can help even one person avoid a scam, she’ll feel a lot better.

McDaniel herself is still feeling “the sting” from last year. Her financial capabilities are rather restricted because of it.

Recently, her husband received notification of winnings through the Oz Lottery. McDaniel took the information to the Wapello County Sheriff.

“There was a different cover letter on [this scam], but I recognized it right away,” McDaniel said.

Last year when McDaniel received her letter, she called the senders and asked, “Is this for real?” The answer was yes. The senders said she was chosen due to her activities online.

McDaniel said everything looked “real” — the notification letter was on good stationery and the check appeared legitimate right down to the watermark.

Sheriff Don Kirkendall said Monday that “the Oz Lottery doesn’t exist.” He said the check enclosed in such a mailing is usually drawn on a bank that doesn’t exist.

However, the Oz Lottery letter the McDaniels recently received is from Seattle, Wash., and is drawn on a Bellevue, Wash., bank, which does exist.

“As it turns out, the bank exists, but the check was bogus,” Kirkendall said.

The Oz Lottery is an Australian lottery that gives the recipient a number to activate, the sheriff said.

“Then they want your banking information,” he said. “According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, [the perpetrators] can set up this scam for about $1,000 and can gain $75,000.”

Kirkendall said the best thing people can do with such mailings is to disregard them or contact local law enforcement.

“They’re all basically the same, just coming from different locations,” he added.

In the past year, the sheriff has noticed a big increase in scams, which come from various places — Las Vegas, Washington state, Australia, England, Canada, and others.

“At least, [these scam artists] allege to be from there. Who knows exactly where these people are?” he said. “One was based in Toronto, Canada, but the drawing was in England.”

Cindy Toopes can be reached at (641) 683-5376 or via e-mail at cindy@ottumwacourier.com.

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