Lottery Scams: What They Are and How to Avoid Them
Winning the lottery is a dream come true. Unfortunately, many people choose to prey on this dream by creating lottery scams that steal money instead of giving it away. There are a few common lottery scams that continually crop up, all trying to cheat unsuspecting victims out of their money. Scammers usually operate by convincing the recipient that they must pay a certain fee to receive their full winnings. However, after the victim sends the payment, they don’t receive any prize money.
Fortunately, these scams are easy to recognize once you see the signs. In this article, we’ll tell you about the most common lottery scams out there and how you can protect yourself from falling victim to them.
Email Phishing Lottery Scams
Email is a popular medium used by scammers, and email phishing scams typically pose as a real-world lottery organization claiming that the recipient has won a prize. “Congratulations, you have won!” (or something similar) is the type of subject line found on most spam emails. While discerning individuals may wonder why some people actually fall for this type of scam, some of the scammers are pretty clever—and persistent.
The increasing popularity of online lottery services has made them a particularly popular scapegoat for this kind of scam. It is important to note that real lotteries—whether it’s a multi-state lottery like Powerball or an online lottery—only email winners shortly after the winner is determined. This means if you were a real winner, you would receive an email on the day of the draw.
The easiest way to spot these scams is to look at the email address of the sender. A legitimate lottery will never use an email from a free provider like Gmail or Hotmail. Do not respond to any emails that do not come from an official email address. These emails will either ask for a fee or personal information about the recipient, such as credit card or banking information, something that a real lottery would never do.
Lottery Scams by Phone
Although lottery scams via phone are not as common as email scams, they are usually more effective. While the modus is the same as email scams, a live person talking to you and asking for your bank info or requesting that you send them money for transaction fees is a different matter altogether. Emails can be ignored easily but phone calls not so much, and some scammers have a way of speaking that is very convincing, almost hypnotizing.
Fake Lottery Prize Scams
This type of fraud appears across multiple platforms, including social media messages, emails, letters, text messages, or even phone calls. This kind of correspondence from scammers informs targets that they have won a lottery draw but must pay a fee if they want to receive the prize. The catch here is that the recipients might not have even entered a lottery contest! However, that doesn’t stop vulnerable individuals like the elderly from falling for the trick.
While some scam artists make up names for lotteries that don’t actually exist, others try to deceive people by pretending to be representatives of legitimate lottery websites. When the person searches for the international lottery company, they will find that the company does exist and is legitimate, and so they are lured into the trap.
There have been a few high-profile examples of these fake lottery prize scams lately. In 2018 a group of 27 individuals was apprehended in Jamaica after scamming over 90 people in the U.S. Believe it or not, but one woman from North Dakota lost $300,000 to the Jamaican lottery scam!
There are also plenty of these kinds of scams on Facebook. Occasionally, posts will circulate that lead users to a page inviting individuals to claim the free money. No legitimate organization would ever contact winners through social media or give away free prizes without an individual buying a ticket or otherwise entering the contest. Likewise, no legitimate company would ever ask people to send money if they’ve just won money—and in the extremely unlikely event that it would be necessary to pay a fee to receive the money, the company could deduct it directly from your winnings.
Lottery Winner Scams
Sometimes scammers take real headlines and use them to their advantage. In this type of scam, victims are contacted by someone claiming to be a real-life winner of a large jackpot. The message claims that the lotto winner has to give away some of their prize money, though rarely specifies why this would be the case. Like all the other scams, recipients are tricked into either giving away personal information or paying a fake fee. There is a well-publicized scam using the name of Mavis Wanczyk, a Massachusetts resident who was the sole recipient of a $758.7 million Powerball jackpot back in August 2017. One variation of the scam even claims to be from the state treasurer! Unfortunately, this kind of scam circulates frequently around big winners who don't know how to use a lottery trust to stay anonymous.
Bogus Lottery Systems or Strategies
Another common way that people try to take advantage of gullible people who want to win the lottery is by convincing them they can somehow game the system, and there are plenty of lotto tools and systems that make lots of money for their creators—despite working on faulty logic and having few, if any, satisfied customers.
In the same vein, there are many books and e-books that attempt to do the same. One notorious one titled Lotto Dominator sells for an astounding $147—on “sale” from $300—and promises readers that they can learn different methods and strategies to win big with the lottery. As our Lotto Dominator review shows, the book is often associated with Richard Lustig, a Florida native who won the lottery an astounding seven times, though there’s no proof that he actually wrote the book. Lustig has written his own book titled Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery. While Lustig’s actual book has a much lower price tag of $40, it still likely won’t help you win the lottery. You're better off choosing lucky numbers the traditional way.
Blackmail scams operate by convincing a target to accept money to which they have no claim. The scammer will then ask for an advance fee and then threaten to blackmail the target if they refuse to pay the price. The targets of blackmail scams are not typically individuals, but corporations. For instance, employees of a multinational corporation may be targeted, with the scammers contacting one branch and claiming they have left messages with head office. The scammers will ask for the target’s personal banking information to transfer the prize money with the intention that the victim will give the money to the employees. However, no money is transferred, and the scammer now has the target’s personal banking information—which is pretty concerning, to say the least.
Online Lottery Betting Scams
Online lottery betting is a common alternative to actual lotteries. People in lottery betting would guess the winning combinations of a draw without entering the actual draw. If they guess the winning combinations, the company that owns the lottery betting website will pay the jackpot. Since the prize money isn’t paid by the actual lottery organization, the money comes from the website owners. Online lottery betting websites get their funds from accumulated ticket sales; however, sometimes the ticket sales is lower than the jackpot that is up for grabs and the website can’t pay up. Some websites bank on the fact that nobody will guess the winning combination, so their money pool grows larger, and when someone does win, scam websites often shut down mysteriously. Check out our tips for avoiding scam online lottery betting sites.
How to Recognize a Lottery Scam
Regardless of what kind of scam you encounter, there are several telltale signs that someone is trying to take advantage of you. If you receive a suspicious letter, message, email, or phone call, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you buy a lottery ticket from the organization? Legitimate lottery websites get their winners from a pool of participants, who spent money to purchase tickets to the draw, so you could not win a prize for a lottery if you did not purchase a ticket or play online.
- Are they asking for money? A legitimate lottery organization will never ask for money in exchange for the prize. Though you might have to pay tax on any jackpot you win (depending on what country you live in), the lottery organization is not in charge of this. Additionally, you would never have to pay a handling fee, and if for some off-chance reason you did need to, they would simply deduct it from your prize money.
- Is the promised prize too good to be true? If the prize doesn’t sound realistic, then it probably isn’t real. For instance, if you receive an email about a lottery from another country or a prize awarded in a different currency, then it is a scam.
- Is the sender aggressive? Many lotteries give winners plenty of time to claim the prize before it expires. If the sender is pushing you into responding quickly, then he or she is likely a scammer. If a lotto organization mentions an expiry date, then it would probably include links to their terms and conditions.
- Is the person asking you to keep the information a secret? Scammers will often tell the target that they have to keep the news of the win confidential. There is no reason a credible lottery organization would ask you to keep the information about your prize from friends and family. In fact, most lotteries relish the opportunity to announce their winners since they provide excellent publicity.
- Does the message look and/or sound professional? If the message has spelling or grammar mistake and has poor graphics, then it is likely a scam. It is also important to research the organization or sender to see if they are a legitimate company or person. If the organization actually exists but you’re still in doubt about the message you’ve received, reach out to the official organization and confirm with them. If there’s a scam going around with their name, they’ll want to know about it.
- Is the message addressed to you? Online lottery organizations may sometimes send automated notifications without your name, but an impersonal salutation is generally a good indication of a scam email. Scammers will often address the recipient as “Dear account holder” or “Dear winner,” or some variation of that salutation.
- What email address sent the message? When it comes to email scams, the email handle is an excellent place to look for legitimacy. An official lottery organization would not use a personal email address or free account services like Hotmail or Gmail.
How to Protect Yourself From Lottery Scams
The best way to protect yourself from falling victim to lottery scams is to ask yourself the above-mentioned questions. If you answer all of the questions and are still unsure as to whether or not you are a legitimate winner, then follow these guidelines:
- Do not send payment. Under no circumstances should you ever send payment to a lottery organization after you have already purchased entries and won a prize. As previously mentioned, no legitimate lottery organization would require winners to pay money to receive their prize.
- Never give away any personal or financial information. Any legit lottery organization that you previously signed up for will already have your personal details in their records, so there is no reason for you to provide that information again at the time of winning. People let their guards down if scammers don’t ask for money from them, but a scammer who has your personal details could do even more damage. If you have already given out your banking information, then contact your bank immediately.
- Do not click on any link. If you receive a suspicious email with a link in it, do NOT click on the link! Doing so could install malware on your computer that would give the scammers access to your personal details, including passwords and banking details.
- Follow official guidelines to claim prizes. If you receive an email, text message, or a phone call from someone who claims to be a representative of a legitimate lottery organization about a winning ticket for a draw that you purchased a ticket for, then look at the back of your ticket. Follow the directions printed there regarding claiming a prize. Do not follow along with any requests in the suspicious correspondence you receive.
- Be vigilant when it comes to phone calls. As stated earlier, some scammers have a way with words, and sometimes you may get carried away by the excitement in their voice. Don’t let them control the conversation: continue asking questions about the so-called lottery that you won, especially if you don’t remember entering it. And don’t be ashamed to simply hang up the phone if you start to suspect that it’s a scam or you feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way.
- Contact the authorities if you’ve already initiated any processes with a suspected scammer. In rare instances of the blackmail lottery scam, the individuals may first send a partial payment to your account and then later on tell you that the money sent to you came from illegal means. At this point, they will try to blackmail you. If you’re already in the midst of this kind of scenario, don’t hesitate to report it to the authorities. They are well aware of blackmail lottery scams, so don’t be afraid that you will get punished for having illegal money in your account—you won’t.
There is no shortage of people looking to take advantage of people’s desire to win big with the lottery and change their lives for the better. Regardless of the type of scam you encounter, there are multiple red flags that you can look for to avoid falling for scammers. The best protection against lottery scams is knowledge and common sense. Just remember that if something seems off, it likely is.