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Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

How the lottery scam works

A typical Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam begins with an email telling you that you have won a large amount of money, and giving you the name of a contact person or agent that you are supposed to work with in order to claim your money. The “lottery winner” will be told that they need to pay a processing fee in order to claim their winnings. For some, these scams become an addiction much like gambling. There is the promise of a large amount of money, and it feels like it is so close, that they continue to send the “agent” more and more money to cover all of the fictional fees and transfer charges.

In other variations, the “winner” will receive a check from the fake lottery agent. They will be told that the check is a partial payment on their winnings, and that to receive the remainder of the winnings they must cash the check and wire a portion of that check, for fees or charges, to the agent. From here, this variation follows the path of a typical Counterfeit Cashier’s Check Scam. The scam victim takes the check to the bank, deposits it and waits for the bank to tell them that the check is clear. Once they believe that the check is clear and has been verified as legitimate, the scam victim then wires the “fees” on to the agent. In about a week, the scam victim is contacted by their bank and told that the check is counterfeit and that they must return the money and are fully liable for the entire amount of the check.

The website tells the story of a victim of one of these scams.

How to Protect Yourself
Look for these warning signs to know if it is a scam:

  • If you do not remember entering a lottery or contest, or purchasing a ticket, it is a scam
  • Never buy a lottery ticket from anyone other than an official lottery retailer displaying official logos and signs.
  • Don't redeem a lottery ticket for someone you do not know.
  • Never accept a collect call from someone claiming to be from the lottery. The lottery does not call collect.
  • Don't give your credit card number over the phone to anyone promising lottery prizes or memberships.
  • Never believe anyone who guarantees you will win a lottery prize. There is no guarantee.
  • Don't try to redeem a lottery ticket from a person. Tickets can be redeemed only at official retailers or lottery offices.
  • It is illegal for legitimate lotteries to charge you any fees to collect your prize.  If you won a real lottery, you would have to pay taxes on your winnings, but you would NEVER have to pay a fee to receive the winnings.  Also, a legitimate lottery would be able to deduct the taxes from your winnings.
  • Many of these scams will use the names of legitimate companies to make their stories sound real, but the email will be coming from a generic email address, and not one associated with that company. For further assurance, search out that company on your own and contact them for verification.
  • Contact the Lottery Department in your state for verification.
  • Run a search on information in the email you receive like
    • The name of the agent
    • The name of the company
    • The address of the company
    • The contact phone number
    • The email address

Very often, one of these items will come up in a search listed on a scam fighting site.

Resources for Victims

Report these scams to:

Other sites with information on Lottery Scams

Visit Scam Victims United's YouTube Page, which includes videos about Lottery Scams and their victims.

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