The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is warning residents to be aware of a scam involving a bogus lottery jackpot from an organization claiming to be the International Lotto Commission.

An elderly couple in the Santa Maria area recently received a letter in the mail claiming that the couple had won $5.5 million in “The Hispanic Lottery International Promotions Program.”

The letter, which features an address in Madrid, Spain, goes on to say that the couple must pay the claims agent 5 percent ($227,500) of the total winnings in order to receive the jackpot.

In many scams, the perpetrators will persuade the victim to cash a fraudulent check and send back all of or a percentage of the money. When the victim’s bank learns that the check is bogus (usually days later), the victim is out the money.

In this case, the North Santa Barbara County couple received a check for $5,500. The couple said a man called their home and aggressively pressured them to cash the check or he would “call the police.” Instead of cashing the check, the couple brought the check to the Sheriff’s Department.

If you or someone you know has received a fraudulent letter, click here to send an email to the Sheriff’s Department or call 805.681.4100.

Con artists often target the elderly who may become confused and fall victim to the scam. Click here for information about avoiding scams or how to stop elder abuse.

— Drew Sugars is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.