You get a card, call, or email telling you that you won! Maybe it’s a lottery, sweepstakes, or some other prize. The person calling is excited and can’t wait for you to get your winnings.
But here’s what happens next: they tell you there’s a fee, some taxes, or customs duties to pay. They ask for your bank account information, or ask you to send money via a wire transfer or to purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers.
Any way you send it, you lose money instead of winning it. You don’t get a big prize. Instead, you get more requests for money, and more promises that you won big. Scammers can be very convincing, and who wouldn’t want to win big!
Lottery and sweepstakes scams are one of the most common consumer frauds operating today. According to the FTC, these scams were the third-most common type of fraud reported to the agency in 2017.
Earlier this year, the FTC took action against an operation we alleged targeted older people with phony sweepstakes offers. The company sent mailers that made people think they had won $1 million (or more!), and that the recipient only needed to pay a small fee to claim it.
Help us help you and others by using the FTC’s top tips to avoid lottery and sweepstakes scams:
1. Keep your money – and your information – to yourself. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it. And never wire money to or share gift card numbers with anyone who asks you to. Both payment methods are a sure sign of a scam.
2. Pass this information on to a friend. You probably throw away these kinds of bogus offers or hang up when you get these calls. But you probably know someone who could use a friendly reminder.
3. If you spot a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Your report can help FTC investigators identify the scammers and stop them before they steal someone’s hard-earned money.
The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.
- We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
- We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
- We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
- We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.