Here is how the Unexpected Prize and Lottery Scams work. They will request that you to pay some sort of upfront fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a contest or lottery that you never actually entered. This post will help you to protect yourself upfront or give you information if you are a victim of this scam.
How This Scam Works
First, you will receive notification that you are the winner of a lot of money or a fantastic prize in a contest, lottery or sweepstakes. The problem is that you don’t remember entering any such event. The initial contact could come by email, telephone, mail, text message, or some form of social media.
The prize you supposedly have ‘won’ could be anything from a tropical vacation package, to electronic devices such as a Smartphone or a laptop, or even money from an international lottery.
To claim your prize, you are going be asked to pay a fee. Scammers will often state that these fees are to cover insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees, or courier charges. The scammers will make their money by continually collecting these fees from you and putting off the payment of your winnings.
The email, letter or text message you receive will request that you to respond very quickly or you run the risk missing out on your payout. It may also strongly encourage you to keep your winnings private or confidential, to help “maintain security” or to stop other people from getting your winnings by mistake. Scammers will do this to prevent you from looking for further information or advice from independent sources.
Some of the lottery scams may use the names of legitimate overseas lotteries (often Spanish lotteries). So if you take the time to do some basic research, the scam will appear to be real. Two examples of the real and legitimate Spanish lotteries that the scammers will falsely use are Loteria Primitiva and El Gordo.
You may also be asked to provide personal details in order to prove that you are the correct winner. They will then ask you to give your bank account details so the prize can be sent to you. Scammers will use these specific details to try to steal your identity and make off with any money you have in your bank account.
Sometimes the scammers will actually send a check for portion of your winnings, such as a few thousand dollars of winnings. They do this to deceive you into thinking that the offer is legitimate. However this check will ultimately bounce and you will not receive any real payments. The scammer will take your payment and will fail to deliver the winnings. Or they may send you something that falls short of the actual promised prize.
A newer version of Unexpected Prize Scams involves scammers getting access to a person’s social media account. They then will contact extended family members (aunts, cousins etc) and inform them that they have all won money. The scammer will then provide an email address by which they will receive instructions on how to claim their prize. This is a particularly cunning and deceitful version of the scam as it will use the trust between family members to be successful in scamming people out of their hard-earned money.
- You receive a letter, email or text message that states that you have won a guaranteed prize in a lottery or contest that you did not actually enter. This could even come from trusted people like family members over social media.
- The sender will claim that you are a winner from your email address or social media account being randomly chosen. They may state that the offer is legal or legitimate, and even has government approval.
- The unexpected prize might be associated with a company which does not usually run such contests. They could include popular electronics or social media companies.
- To claim your prize you will be asked to buy a ticket, or to pay a fee or tax.
- You may be asked to provide your personal or bank account details. Or you may be asked to send the fee to a P.O. box number or by way of an electronic money transfer service.
How To Protect Yourself
If you haven’t actually entered a lottery or contest, you can’t be the winner.
- If someone makes a request that you to pay money up-front in order to receive a prize or winnings, it will almost always be a scam. Legitimate lotteries will not require you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
- Verify the identity of the contact by directly calling the relevant organization. You should find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details that were provided in the message sent to you.
- Do an internet search on any of the details of the contest. By taking this extra step, many scams can be identified.
- Never send money or give your credit card, online account details, or copies of your important personal documents to any person that you don’t know and/or trust.
- Avoid anything where payment is requested via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded debit card, or electronic currency, such as Bitcoin. It is very rare to recover any money that has been sent this way.
Have You Been Scammed?
If your bank account, credit card, debit card, or any other account information has been shared with the scammer, you need to shut the account down as soon as possible. Thieves know that they have a very limited time to withdraw money, so they are going to act quickly as well.
Contact your bank (or whoever has your account) and inform them that you suspect there are going to be attempts to steal funds from your account. If you aren’t able to reach anybody immediately, you should at least review recent transactions, change your password if there’s any possibility that it was compromised, and transfer funds out of any accounts that are at risk. For example, you can move funds from your checking account to your savings account.
If you have been scammed by a business, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is always a good place to start. However, industry-specific watchdogs will be especially motivated to help clear things up, so it’s worth your while letting them know, as well. With financial services in general, it is a good idea to report the scam to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Those complaints can be handled by the CFPB or they can be directed to the appropriate regulator such as the SEC for securities, and the FDIC for certain banking issues. If the scam was operated online, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) should also be contacted. And finally, state consumer protection agencies can and will offer local support.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post on Unexpected Prize And Lottery Scams. I hope it provided the reader necessary information and was helpful in some way. Feel free to pass it on to someone that may need the information. Please leave Comments or Questions below. Also, if you know of a scam that needs to be looked at, please leave the information in the Comments section and I will be glad to investigate. Take care.