There have been some very big jackpots lately and everyone feels the temptation of “a dollar and a dream.” However, a nightmare can occur when prize scammers try to get your money or personal information through fake lotteries, sweepstakes, or other contests. Many claim that you’ve won a prize but must pay a fee to collect it. Others require you to provide personal information to enter a “contest.” These scams may reach you by postal mail, email, phone call, robocall, or text message.
State and local laws govern legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes. In the United States, 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands sponsor lotteries to raise money for the state’s programs. States that sponsor lotteries publish the results of their lotteries online, or broadcast them on television.
Report Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
To report a prize scam:
Contact the Federal Trade Commission online or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
Contact a postal inspector if the scam uses U.S. mail to further its scheme. It doesn’t matter if the scam notice arrived by phone or email.
Report robocalls and unwanted telemarketing calls to the Do Not Call Registry.
Federal agencies investigate scams and pursue criminal charges against the scammers. They don’t, however, investigate individual cases. State consumer protection offices do sometimes pursue individual cases as well as investigate scams.
How to Protect Yourself
Remember these tips to avoid being a victim of a lottery or sweepstakes scam:
Check the postage on a mailed prize notice. If it was sent bulk rate, it’s probably a scam.
Try to remember if you entered a particular contest. If you don’t remember entering it, you probably didn’t, and the prize notice is a fake.
Contact the actual company to verify a prize notice from an organization known to run a real sweepstakes.
Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. You may register online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you receive telemarketing calls after registering, there’s a good chance that the calls are scams.
Report spam text messages to your mobile carrier, then delete them.
Hang up on suspicious calls.
Don’t pay a fee, taxes, or shipping charges to receive a prize.
Don’t wire money to, or deposit a check from, any organization claiming to run a sweepstakes or lottery.
Don’t provide your credit card number, bank account information, or other personal information.
Don’t believe anyone who says they’re from the government or an official-sounding organization.
Don’t reply to, or click on any links in, a spam text message.
Don’t attend a sales meeting to be eligible to win a prize.
Don’t give in to pressure to take immediate action.
Don’t believe anyone claiming to be from a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. It’s illegal to enter foreign contests like these.