The BBB says many across the country are falling victim to lottery sweepstake scams, and it’s causing devastating consequences for people. The BBB has estimated that these scams have stolen nearly $117 million out of half a million Americans and Canadians in 2017 alone.
According to their research, the majority of victims affected fall within the 65-74 year old age range. They say among that age group, people who recently experienced a serious negative life event are even more likely to be victimized by lottery scams.
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According to the Bureau, scammers are contacting consumers through direct mail, social media, texts, and smartphone pop-ups. The frauds are claiming that the person has won a prize, but must first pay a fee to receive it.
The Better Business Bureau is urging the public to take the following precautions to avoid being scammed:
Don’t pay up to claim your prize: You should never have to pay money or buy products in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of wiring money or using a prepaid debit card.
You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter: You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if you’ve been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.
Verify—but not by using a source scammers give you. Check if an offer is real, but don’t call the phone number in the email or website you suspect may be a scam. If it is a con, chances are the person on the other line will be involved too. Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won.
The only legal lotteries in the United States are the official state-run lotteries. Foreign lotteries are illegal.
Do an internet search. Search online for the name of the company or phone number of the person who contacted you. You may see results of others claiming to have been scammed in the same situation.
Law enforcement does not call and award prizes. Law enforcement will never call you to let you know you have won a lottery or prize.
Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure.