Don't Fall for Fake Online Lottery Scams

RELEASE DATE: 11/25/2008

Crooks Who Claim To Run Legitimate Lotteries Are Using A Variety Of Tricks

Everyone wants to hear the words "You've won the lottery!" Unfortunately, some crooks are using those words as a scam to trick you into giving them money or your private information. Fake lotteries, or lottery scams, are a growing problem for legitimate lotteries and their players.

The scam often begins when you receive an official-looking letter or e-mail, or sometimes a phone call. In each case, someone tells you that you have “won” a large amount of money. They may even attach a check to cover part of your "winnings."

If a person is fooled into thinking he or she has won a prize, the scammers then try to get the person to send them money for "taxes" or "processing fees." They may also try to get the victim to provide them with a bank account number, which they will then clean out. Another trick is to send the winner a legitimate-looking “check” and ask the winner to send money back to cover expenses. It is only after victims have sent their own money that the check sent by the scammers bounces.

Here are some tips that can prevent someone from scamming you:

  • If you are told that you have won a lottery that you have never played, it is a scam. You can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t buy a ticket.
  • No real lottery asks winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won.
  • If you are told that you need to keep your “win” confidential, be suspicious.
  • Ask questions. Never give out personal information or send money unless you verify the company or solicitor’s legitimacy.
  • If they give you a phone number to call to “verify” that they are legitimate, be suspicious. The person you call is often part of the scam. Ask for the name of the lottery that you won, then find the contact information on your own and contact that lottery to ask if you’ve won.

If you think someone is trying to scam you with a fake lottery, call your local police.

For more information:

Federal Trade Commission: “Foreign Lotteries: The Games You Can’t Win” http://www.ftc.gov/crossborder/