By David Anderson
‘You’ve won a lottery prize!’ the caller says in his best broken English.
Dropping the phone you shout excitedly to the family ‘We won the lottery!’
‘All you have to do is provide all your personal information, access codes to all your bank accounts, and wire us a small shipping-and-handling fee to believe our lies – er, receive your prize.’
You can see right through that right?
“Consumer protection is a top priority for the Attorney General’s Office,” according to a recent scam-alert related to the lottery.
“Lottery scammers want to steal your personal information and money — don’t be duped,” said Bob Ferguson, State Attorney General. “Washington’s Lottery will not collect personal information as part of the sales process.”
“The state pays millions to probe the thoughts and habits of potential lottery players,” wrote Lindsay Peterson for The Tampa Tribune, March 5, 2010. “Consultants ask what they buy at convenience stores, whether they rent videos, go to theme parks, even how they feel about owning things and belonging to a group.”
Only the National Security Agency knows more about you than the lottery does.
Of course the state referenced above that delves into your past, present, and future lottery-ticket purchase potential is Florida and such intrusions wouldn’t happen here in Washington.
Periodically the Tacoma News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan writes on the goings-on behind the scenes of Washington’s Lottery. In an article – the date for which I failed to record – Callaghan noted Washington lottery staff divulged that “young adults produce nearly $5 million in state revenue by playing lottery games.”
Now how did they know that?
Furthermore – and you can just see them leaning back in overstuffed leather chairs smiling behind their hands as the tips of their fingers together tap in unison – the lottery business plan targets late-teens as “a key market the lottery intends to pursue” representatives of “the players of the future.”
Aghast at this disclosure via Callaghan’s article, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire wrote a letter to Christopher Liu, then-lottery director, telling him to knock off the kid-addiction thing.
Specifically the Gov. asked Liu to “refrain from using tools that entice those young adults to play,” the letter dated Feb. 10, 2006.
Duly remorseful, leaders of the lottery two years later provided for children – er, their parents – candy-wrapper scratch-off tickets, Milk Duds among them.
Calling it a dud indeed Callaghan asked, “Why would the lottery join up with a company that spends millions of dollars marketing its products to kids?”
Because, Ferguson not-with-standing, while “consumer protection” is alleged to be “a top priority,” in fact the bottom-line quite evidently matters more.
Bill Hanson, current director of Washington’s Lottery, declares “we feel people should be aware that there are criminals trying to take advantage using lottery wins as the basis for a scam.’
Speaking of criminals trying to take advantage using the lottery wins – or loses, whatever – investigation of state-sponsored lotteries generally reveals that “the lottery relies on the poorest and least educated.”
“Anthony Miyazaki of Florida International University in Miami,” according to Peterson, “has spent more than a decade researching lottery players. He questions whether the state should promote a practice that exploits human weakness. ‘How do you have high expectations for people when the government itself is promoting what is likely a false hope?’
“Studies of lottery spending, including one from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, show the money comes largely from Social Security, unemployment and other government support.”
When Hanson exudes of the lottery that “for 31 years now, this agency has been able to provide support to some important state programs,” education first comes to mind: ‘buy a ticket, support a school’ and ‘your kid failing? Play the Lotto.’ As a matter of fact “there are a bunch of destinations for that $1 ticket,” wrote Jordan Schrader in the Tacoma News Tribune’s Political Buzz of January 28, 2010. And cash-strapped legislators, wrote Schrader, have “redirect(ed) lottery proceeds to the general fund.”
Now there’s a conundrum for you. Even were minimal cents-on-the-dollar of your lottery purchase to support education, at the same time what sense does it make that the least educated play the lottery?
Talk about sick-lical.
So what is the difference between lottery scammers whose “goal (is) tricking people into thinking they’ve won a lottery prize,” and state-sanctioned lottery scanners whose goal is recruiting people – especially the young, impressionable, poor, and uneducated – into purchasing their way out of poverty through playing what Hanson calls “fun games” while “sparking (their) imagination”?
Not a lot when it comes to the lottery.