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Everyone dreams of winning the lottery, but scammers can turn that dream into an absolute nightmare. Here’s all you need to know about fake lottery scams.

Lottery Winner
How the scams play out

In a fake lottery scam, a scammer reaches out to a potential target by phone, email or social media message to inform them that they’ve won a large cash amount or major prize. Alternatively, they may offer to let the target play a “free round” of lotto, which results in an instant win.

The scam concludes with the fraudster asking the target to share personal information and/or to pay fees for covering “processing costs” that would allow the target to receive their prize. Of course, if information is shared, it is used to empty the target’s accounts or commit identity theft. If money is shared, it will never be seen again. Oh, and no sweepstakes or lottery has actually been won.

Red flags

Watch for these red flags, which can alert you to the likelihood of a fake lottery scam:

  • A letter, email, popup or social media message claiming you’ve won a lottery you’ve never entered.
  • You’re offered entry in a lottery or sweepstakes at no cost.
  • You’re asked to share sensitive info over the phone or by email.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to get your prize.
  • The email claiming you’ve won a prize is written poorly and has typos.
  • You’re instructed to keep your win confidential to not risk losing your prize.
  • The “lottery rep” offers to wire your winnings directly into your checking account.
  • You’re told you can “verify” the prize by calling a specific number.

Protect yourself

  • Never share sensitive information with an unverified contact.
  • Don’t open emails or click on links from unverified contacts.
  • A legitimate lottery will never charge a fee or collect money as a “tax” for issuing a prize.
  • Keep the security on all your devices set to their highest settings.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’re being targeted by a fake lottery scam, end the call or delete the email, and then block the number or mark the email as spam. Report the scam to the FTC.