Fake Prize, Sweepstakes, and Lottery Scams

You may be a winner, but that’s not likely.

Wouldn't it be amazing if money or a really nice prize were to show up at your house for free? Of course it would! Scammers know this better than anyone.  It’s human nature to be excited about free money promised in a letter or an email.

The truth is that too-good-to-be-true offers are usually scams.  You may be told you’ve won the lottery or sweepstakes.  You may be informed that some distant relative has passed away and left you a huge inheritance.  You may even be offered a chance to invest in a can’t-miss new company. 

Maybe it’s all on the up-and-up, but unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.  Here are three major signs that your major win may be fraudulent:

  • You’re asked to put up money claim your prize
  • You’re told that paying money increases your odds of winning
  • You’re asked to provide personal financial information like your account and routing numbers

In any of these cases, tear up the offer received in the mail, or delete the email.  When you do, you’ve just saved yourself from a possible financial loss and the hassle of trying to recover those losses.

What if the offer appears to be real?  Read it over several times, and look for these indications of trickery:

  • The offer may claim to be from the government
  • The offer may use actual logos from companies you trust
  • It may mention charitable organizations that are real
  • It may sound as if you are the only winner (check for indication of bulk mail)
  • The offer may reference a foreign lottery or a contest you did not enter
  • A scammer will create a sense of urgency, demanding you act quickly
  • The offer may include a fake check and ask for money back

Note that if you win the Texas Lottery, you will not be notified.  It is your responsibility to come forward with your winning ticket.  The Texas Lottery will not ask you for money.

Here are some other things you ought to know:

  • If the offer is legitimate, there will be no demands for money
  • Legitimate offers are always free and will state the odds of winning
  • Legitimate promotional “checks” will be labeled “non-negotiable”
  • If you bite on a scam, your info will be sold and you will get more offers
  • Beware of sweepstakes that claim you have already won
  • Avoid online skills contests that take you to the next level but never pay off

If you participate in any of these you may be able to recover some of your money.  Contact the financial institution you used to send or wire money to see if it can be stopped.  If you sent cash by USPS and wish to stop it, call 877-876-2455 to request an intercept of your letter or package.

Be sure to change your credentials on any online account that may have been breached, and report scams to:

  • ReportFraud@FTC.gov
  • The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
  • Your local Consumer Protection Office

For extra protection, be sure to subscribe to ID Shield. ID Shield includes dark web monitoring, identity restoration, SSN notifications, and more.

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