Fake Prize, Sweepstakes, and Lottery Scams
You get a call, email, or letter saying you won a sweepstakes, lottery, or prize — like an iPad, a new car, or something else. But you can tell it’s a scam because of what they do next: they ask you to pay money or give them your account information to get the prize. If you pay, you’ll lose your money and find out there is no prize.
Here are three signs of a prize scam:
You have to pay to get your prize. If someone tells you to pay a fee for "taxes," "shipping and handling charges," or “processing fees” to get your prize, you’re dealing with a scammer. If they ask you to pay by wiring money, sending cash, or paying with gift cards or cryptocurrency to get your prize, don’t do it. Scammers use these payments because it’s hard to track who the money went to. And it’s almost impossible to get your money back.
- They say paying increases your odds of winning. But real sweepstakes are free and winning is by chance. It’s illegal for someone to ask you to pay to increase your odds of winning. Only a scammer will do that.
- You have to give your financial information. There’s absolutely no reason to ever give your financial account or credit card number to claim any prize or sweepstakes. If they ask for this information, don’t give it. It’s a scam.
How Scammers Try To Trick You:
Scammers say they’re from the government when they’re not. Scammers try to look official. They want you to think you’ve won a government-supervised lottery or sweepstakes. They make up fake names like the “National Sweepstakes Bureau,” or pretend they’re from a real agency like the Federal Trade Commission. The truth is the government won’t call you to demand money so you can collect a prize.
Scammers send you a message (via text, email, or social media) to get your personal information. You might be told that you won a gift card or a discount code for use at a local store. Or the message may say you won something expensive, like an iPad or a new car from your local dealership. Scammers hope you’ll respond with your personal information or click on links that can take your personal information or download malware onto your device. Don’t respond.
- Scammers pressure you to act now to get a prize. Scammers want you to hurry up and pay or give them information. They tell you it’s a limited time offer, or you have to “act now” to claim your prize. They don’t want you to have time to evaluate what’s really happening. Don’t be rushed — especially if they want you to do something to get your prize.
- Scammers send you a check and ask you to send some of the money back. This is a fake check scam. If you deposit the check, it can take the financial Institution weeks to figure out that it’s fake. In the meantime, the financial institution has to make the funds available, so it can look like the money is in your account. But once the financial institution finds out the check is fake, they’ll want you to pay back the funds.
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