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The Better Business Bureau doesn’t run a lottery or hand out cash prizes.

But some unsuspecting consumers have fallen falling prey to a lottery-themed scam that invokes the names of the consumer-advocacy organization.

“We get calls like this every day from consumers who think they’ve lost money to a scam such as this,” said Joan Coughlin, spokeswoman for the central Ohio BBB.

The scam, which was first noticed locally last month, is among the top complaints the BBB has received in recent weeks, she said.

Already, the central Ohio office has collected from consumers several boxes worth of fake checks with the BBB name on them.

The scam involves fake lottery notices sent to consumers claiming to be from the BBB.

The notice includes a check for several thousand dollars. It requires the recipients to cash the check at their bank and send much of the money back to the sender to cover fees and taxes so they can collect the several thousand dollars in cash prizes or winnings.

Of course, there is no prize, and consumers lose the money they sent off.

This round of scams is more convincing, Coughlin said, because the schemes include the names of real BBB employees and links to real online bios and profiles of BBB employees.

“They’re using the BBB name because they feel it adds legitimacy to their scams,” she said. “A quick call to the organization that is being said to offer the winnings can help set the record straight and confirm the facts.

“And consumers need to know that they should never have to pay in advance to receive any prizes or lottery winnings.”

People who can ill afford to part with money are especially hurt by these scams. “A lot of people are struggling right now, and the possibility of winning millions in a lottery can seem like the answer to a prayer,” she said.

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