We have all dreamed of hitting the Power Ball and thought of all the ways we would use the money IF we won. We’d pay off our debt, go on elaborate vacations, and buy a new house and cars. However, lottery and sweepstakes scams rank among the most common consumer frauds.
I do not encourage “gambling” when you are struggling to get out of debt by any means. But if you do, beware of fraudsters out to take advantage of any win-fall you may come into if you were to suddenly win proceeds from a lottery or sweepstakes.
Along with calls, mailings, emails and text messages, crooks now use online pop-up windows and social media to tell you that you have won money or prizes. Those crooks may then tell you must first pay taxes, processing, delivery or legal fees from your winnings. A request for any upfront payment is an indication that someone is trying to defraud you.
How Lottery Scammers Can Take Advantage of You
When it comes to upfront payments, criminals have some favorite methods.
These are virtually the same as cash.
Prepaid cards and iTunes cards are popular since they can access the card balance if you give them a number from the back of the card or a PIN over the phone.
Send Cash in the Mail
Once you give them the money, they will keep asking for more, claiming there is a bigger jackpot at stake or a problem can be resolved with more money. A refusal to pay might be met with threats of violence.
Sharing Your Personal Account Information
Never share your sensitive, personal bank account, or credit card number information. Scammers can make unauthorized transactions or they can sell your information to other scam operations.
Deposit Counterfeit Checks and Send Money Back
Some scammers may ask you to deposit counterfeit checks and send the money back to the scammer. Please know that if you deposit a fake check and it bounces, you will be responsible for repaying the bank.
Impersonating Public Figures
Scammers might also ask you to impersonate a public figure, such as a lottery official, FBI agent, or IRS agent. This is done by cloning social media profiles and 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.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Protect yourself by following these simple rules:
- Never wire money to an unknown party or pay with a prepaid card or gift card for a prize.
- Never 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.
- Contact your financial institution immediately if you have become a victim.
Contact a Trusted Financially-Focused Attorney Today
If you have been a victim of a scam, we may be able to help. Please feel free to contact one of Bond & Botes offices for a free consultation.
Gail Hughes Donaldson is a Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She’s been helping families work through the bankruptcy process since she started with Bond & Botes back in 1993 as a paralegal. Read her full bio here.