Winning the lottery can be life changing. Maybe you’ve dreamt of winning the lottery and moving to a bigger house, buying a vacation home or retiring. But what if that dream turned into a nightmare? Lottery scams are becoming more and more common. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports that Americans lost more than $262 million to lottery scams in 2021 alone.
Types of Lottery Scams
There are a few different types of lottery scams, but they all have one thing in common: someone is trying to trick you into giving them your money.
The most common type of lottery scam is when someone contacts you, usually by email, phone call or text message, and tells you that you’ve won a huge jackpot. They might even say that you’ve won a foreign lottery that you didn’t enter. But there’s always a catch. In order to collect your “winnings,” they might say that you need to pay a fee or buy a ticket. Or they might ask for your bank account information so they can “deposit” the money. But there is no lottery prize and you will never see that money again.
Another type of lottery scam is when someone sends you a fake check, usually for several thousand dollars. They might say it’s to cover taxes or fees on your lottery winnings. But the check is fake and if you deposit it, you will be responsible for any funds that are withdrawn from your account. The bank may also charge you fees for depositing a fake check.
Red Flags of a Lottery Scam
Lottery scams are becoming more and more common, and they can be very difficult to spot. Keep an eye out for these warning signs:
- You’ve never played the lottery before, but you suddenly receive a call or email saying that you’ve won.
- The caller or emailer says that you need to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings.
- They ask for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number.
- They say that you’ve won a foreign lottery, and they need your help to collect the money.
- You receive a check for your winnings, but you’re told that you need to deposit it and then wire some of the money back in order to collect your winnings.
Immediate Action Steps
If you think you’ve been the victim of a lottery scam, it’s important to take action immediately:
- Stop all communication with the scammers. If you’re getting calls from them, block their number. If you’re getting emails from them, delete their messages and add their email address to your spam filter.
- Do not give them any more money. The scammers will keep asking for more and more money, and you’ll never see your winnings.
- Contact your local Consumer Protection Office or the Better Business Bureau. They can help you file a complaint and also warn other people about the scam.
- Talk to a lawyer. You may be able to take legal action against the scammers and get your money back. Be warned, however, that it may be very difficult to track down the scammers and get your money back.
- Report lottery scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 will review your report and refer it to the appropriate federal, state, local and international agencies if necessary.
Avoid Future Lottery Scams
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue and tells you that you’ve won a lottery. If you didn’t buy a ticket, you can’t win! Never give your personal or financial information to someone you don’t know. A legitimate lottery will never ask for your bank account details or social security number. Be skeptical of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings. Again, legitimate lotteries will never ask for money upfront.
To learn more, head over to our lottery, prize and sweepstake scams page.