Don’t Get Caught in a Fake Lottery Scam

Authored By: Community Financial Credit Union on 10/11/2022

Lottery Scam graphic with brightly-colored lottery cards. Continuing our education this Cybersecurity Month, there’s a new scam to look out for! While everyone dreams of winning the lottery, scammers are patiently waiting in the wings to turn that dream into a nightmare. A fake lottery scam involves one or more scammers pretending to be a legitimate lottery company in order to con their unsuspecting victims out of their information and hard-earned money.

Here’s all you need to know about fake lottery scams and how to spot them.

How the Scams Play Out

In a fake lottery scam, a scammer will reach out to a potential target via phone, email, or through social media platforms to inform them that they’ve won a large amount of cash or major prizes like a new car or other expensive goods. Alternatively, they may offer to let the target play a “free round” of lotto, which will miraculously result in an instant win.

To convince the target of their authenticity, the scammer may claim to represent a major lotto company, like Mega Millions, or another recognizable name. In some cases, they’ll pretend to represent a government agency, like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or an invented, but real-sounding, program like the “National Sweepstakes Organization”.

The scam will conclude with the fraudster asking the target to share personal information, and/or to pay fees to cover “processing costs” and the like, which will supposedly allow the target to receive their prize. Of course, if information is shared, it will be used to empty the target’s accounts or commit identity theft, and if money is shared, it will never be seen again. Sadly, no sweepstakes or lottery has been won, either.

Red Flags

Watch out for these red flags, which can alert you to the likelihood of a fake lottery scam:

  • A letter, email, popup window, or social media message claiming you’ve won a lottery you’ve never entered.
  • You’re offered the opportunity to enter a lottery or sweepstakes at no cost.
  • You’re informed you’ve won a foreign lottery, or offered the opportunity to purchase tickets to one.
  • You’re asked to share sensitive information over the phone or via email.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to receive your prize.
  • The area code of the scammer’s phone number is foreign.
  • The email claiming you’ve won a prize is written poorly and has typos.
  • You are instructed to keep your win confidential or risk losing your prize.
  • The “lottery rep” offers to wire your winnings directly into your checking account.
  • The caller offers to send you a check for more than you’ve allegedly won, and then asks you to send back the surplus via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
  • You’re told you can “verify” the prize by calling a specific number.

Protect Yourself

While these scams may seem overwhelming and difficult to avoid, there are ways to keep yourself informed and your information safe. Arm yourself with these protective measures to keep safe from fake lottery scams:

  • Never share sensitive information with an unverified contact.
  • Be aware that it’s illegal for U.S. citizens to play a foreign lottery.
  • Don’t open emails or click on links from unverified contacts.
  • A legitimate lottery will never charge a fee or collect money for a “tax” for issuing a prize.
  • Never wire money or pay via prepaid debit card to an unknown contact.
  • Keep the security on all your devices set to their highest settings and enable popup blocker features on your web browser.

If You’ve Been Targeted

If you believe you’re being targeted by a fake lottery scam, don’t engage further with the scammer. End the call or delete the email, and then block the number or mark the email address as spam. Report the scam to the FTC and, if relevant, to the legitimate lottery company the scammers are spoofing. You can also report the scam to your local law enforcement agency. If your accounts were infiltrated, be sure to reach out to your financial institution, as well as reaching out to credit bureaus. Finally, let your friends know about the circulating scam so they know to be aware and be on guard.

Lottery scams take what could possibly be the most exciting phone call of a lifetime, and turn it into the beginning of the worst nightmare ever. Don’t let them fool you! Stay alert and stay safe. Do you have questions about an email you’ve received or want more information about how to prevent identity theft? Visit Community Financial online, in person, or reach out via phone at (877) 937-2328 to speak to one of our dedicated team members today!

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