San Francisco police are warning the public about a scam in which victims are mailed fraudulent checks by a non-existent lottery organization.

Potential victims have been mailed letters claiming to be from a British organization called the National Lottery, which does not exist, according to police.

The letter says that the victim has won $135,000 and encloses a check for $3,750, which is supposedly a reimbursement for a British tax on winnings by non-residents, police said.

However, the letter says that $1,960 in U.S. dollars is required to pay the tax, and that once the payment is received, the balance of the $135,000 will be sent, according to police.

Some victims have sent the money as specified via a Money Gram or Western Union transfer, only to find out later from their bank that the $3,750 check was not legitimate.

Other victims have been detained or arrested after the bank notified police of an attempt at forgery, police said.

Investigators are encouraging anyone who may have been a victim of this scam to come forward, and are urging caution by residents who may receive an unsolicited or unusual check.

People can do an Internet search on phone numbers, email addresses or any names on such a letter, and are advised not to call or email the contacts to avoid “data mining” by scammers who may use a victim’s contact information for purposes of identity theft or other crimes.

Anyone with information about the scam is asked to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 553-1521.

People wishing to remain anonymous can call the department’s tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411 and begin the message by typing “SFPD.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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