The New York State Police are warning residents about a scam involving fraudulent taxes on lottery winnings.

The NYS Police have arrested 40-year-old arrested Earl Alton Smith. He is accused of being involved in a lottery scam in which he convinced an 84-year-old Canandaigua woman she was the grand prize winner of a sweepstakes/lottery and told she needed to pay the taxes to receive the payout. Smith scammed the elderly woman out of $10,500.

How can you protect yourself and your family?

The State Police have some tips to avoid being scammed:

  • This fraudulent activity is very common and has been going on for many years.
  • It is extremely unusual, if not impossible, to win a sweepstakes/lottery that you did not enter, especially if it is claimed to be a foreign lottery.If the prize or jackpot sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If any "taxes" or "processing fees" involve payment by gift cards, iTunes cards, a wire transfer, and the like, it is a scam. In a legitimate lottery, a portion of your jackpot will be withheld for federal and state taxes, you do not pay anything upfront.I
  • If you are solicited for winning a contest you never entered, talk it over with a relative or friend, listen for a foreign accent, look for poor grammar, or do some research on your own. A second opinion could be all you need to prevent you from being a victim and potentially losing thousands of dollars.

Scams like these prey on the elderly and vulnerable, who may be too trusting and less likely to suspect fraud.