by cloning social media profiles, creating
bogus websites and pop-ups, or pretending to be real lottery winners who want to
“give away” part of their winnings.
Lottery and sweepstakes scams are
typically run outside the United States
using technology to disguise their phone
number. For example, the caller ID display
on a victim’s phone may say “FBI” or display a number with a Washington, D.C.,
area code (;;;). The government and law
enforcement never call to notify lottery
and sweepstakes winners or award prizes
of any kind.
Protect yourself from fraud by observ-
ing these precautions:
• Don’t wire money to an unknown
party or pay with a prepaid card or gift
card for a prize.
• Don’t disclose personal information
to an unknown party.
• Don’t deposit a check and send
money or prepaid cards back.
• Don’t click on pop-up windows offering gift cards, prizes or contest entries.
A safe bet
Lottery and sweepstakes
scams can set you up
for a lose-lose situation
by AMANDA HOROWITZ
ottery and sweepstakes scams
rank among the most common
consumer frauds. Along with
calls, mailings, emails and text
messages, crooks now use online pop-up
windows and social media to tell you that
you’ve won money or prizes.
Fraudsters say you must first pay
taxes, processing, delivery, legal and/or
customs fees to collect your “winnings.”
A request for an upfront payment is an
indication that someone is trying to
When it comes to upfront payments,
criminals have some favorites. They like
to use money transfers because they are
virtually the same as cash. Prepaid cards
and i Tunes gift cards are popular because
crooks can access the card balance if you
give them a number from the back of the
card or a PIN over the phone.
They may also ask you to send cash in
the mail. Once you give them money, they
may keep asking for more, claiming
there’s a bigger jackpot at stake, or that
there was an error or problem that can be
solved with more money. A refusal to pay
might be met with threats of violence.
Never share your sensitive, personal
financial information. Using your bank
account or credit card numbers, scammers can make unauthorized transactions or they can sell your information to
other scam operations.
Victims are sometimes asked to
deposit counterfeit checks and send
money back to the scammer. Note that if
you deposit a fake check and it bounces,
you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
Another trick includes impersonating
public figures, companies, a lottery, FBI
and IRS officials, and others. This is done
If you’re a victim, you might
be able to stop or reverse
funds if you act quickly.
Report the scam to:
• Your financial institution
and money transfer service.
• The FBI’s Internet Crime
Complaint Center ( IC3.gov).
• Local police.
• Your state attorney
• The Federal Trade Commission ( ftc.gov/complaint).
• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (https://postalin
spectors.uspis.gov) if you
receive a foreign lottery o;er
in the mail (foreign lotteries
are illegal) or if mail is used in
Report a scam
Protective measures: Review
family members’ privacy
settings on social media.
Educate those who are caring
for older relatives.
is a writer, businesswoman and owner
of Fight Back! She is
the daughter of Fight
Back!’s founder, David
Horowitz. Fight Back!
has received multiple
Emmy Awards and
over 400 awards
from government and
citizen groups and
has helped to draft
over 50 pieces of
legislation in America.
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