(BBB) – According to new research from Better Business Bureau® (BBB), sweepstakes and lottery scams resulted in higher financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the previous three years. Adults over the age of 55 continue to be the primary target, representing 72% of fraud reports for these types of scams received by BBB Scam Tracker. Of the older consumers who were targeted, 91% reported that they lost money. BBB warns consumers never to pay money to claim a prize. If anyone asks for money before delivering a prize, it is likely a scam.
How the Scam Works
Sweepstake scammers reach out through a variety of channels: phone calls, email, social media, notices in the mail, and text messages. They may impersonate well-known sweepstakes such as Publishers Clearing House or a state or provincial lottery. Before the prize can be awarded, the “winner” is told to pay taxes or fees via wire transfer, bank deposit into a specified account, cash sent by mail or by purchasing gift cards. Unfortunately, the prize does not exist, which is something people may not realize before paying thousands of dollars that cannot be recouped.
How to tell fake sweepstakes and lottery offers from real ones:
- True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If someone wants money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
- You have to enter to win. To win a lottery, you must buy a lottery ticket. To win a sweepstakes or prize, you must have entered first. If you can’t remember doing so, that’s a red flag.
- Call the sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters or check to see if you have actually won at 800-392-4190.
- Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
- Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
- Law enforcement officials do not call and award prizes. Verify the identity of the caller and do not send money until you do.
- Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help.
If you think you have been a target of lottery/sweepstakes fraud, file a report with:
- BBB Scam Tracker, or contact your local BBB
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or call 877-FTC-Help
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service has experts to help with chronic sweepstakes scam victims and can be reached at 1-877-876-2455 or uspis.gov
- Senate Subcommittee on Aging Fraud hotline: 1-855-303-9470
- Western Union: 1-800-448-1492; file a complaint at westernunion.com
- MoneyGram: 1-800-926-9400; report a problem at moneygram.com
- Green Dot: 1-866-795-7597; contact greendot.com
- Canadian Anti Fraud Centre: toll free from the US at 1-888-495-8501
- Adult Protective Services: local help at elderjustice.gov for vulnerable or older adult victims
- Facebook: log reports of log reports of hacked or fake profiles