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By: Juliant 2018-06-13 10:28:00 Comment: Rating:

Beware of Sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams

If it seems too good to be true -- it probably is.

A common scheme involves scammers telling people they have won a large amount of money in a lottery or sweepstakes. Victims send money, purportedly for taxes or other costs that must be paid before receiving a prize. Unfortunately, they never receive the promised prizes.

According to news and reports, nearly 500,000 people have reported this fraud to law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada over the last three years with reported losses of $117 million last year alone.

The actual number of victims and losses is likely much larger, as many victims are too embarrassed to report it.

While the scams’ roots go as far back in the culture as gambling, the fraud continues to evolve with the times -- and now include social media.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) says about one-third of the complaints it receives about sweepstakes/lottery fraud occur over social media.

These frauds concentrate mostly on older people, who suffer the largest losses by far. In addition to money loss, victims often are emotionally devastated when they realize they have been defrauded: Some have resorted to suicide.

Sweepstakes frauds involve different actors, and the methods used to contact victims have evolved from direct mail to cold calling to social media.

Some fraudsters contact victims on their phones, using text messages or pop-ups on the browser claiming people have won large gift cards or new smartphones. The goal of this type of fraud is to gather information to sell to other scammers, and to get people enrolled in “free trial offers.”

Lotteries are illegal in the U.S. unless authorized by law. Sweepstakes, on the other hand, do not require any payment to obtain a prize. They mainly are regulated by state law. That’s why most sweepstakes specifically state “no purchase required.” One of the largest sweepstakes operating is Publishers Clearing House, where there is no required cost to participate. Any program that requests or receives money to award a prize, for any reason, will be considered a lottery, and therefore is illegal.

Those who think they may have won a lottery or sweepstakes should do a quick internet search before proceeding. Some fraud can be avoided by strengthening the privacy settings on social media platforms such as Facebook.

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Recent Comments

  • PB
    2018-06-25 11:33:09
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    recorded robotic call - will be arrested if do not return call and make arrangements. Left voicemail message when I did not answer.

  • Rick in STL
    2018-06-25 11:32:19
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    important to talk to you... some computer female voice.... clearly not normal english. Hopefully they get shut down

  • Eric
    2018-06-25 11:32:12
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    It's an absolute IRS scam when I asked them about it they use terrible language and then hang up on me. I called back seven times and apparently my number's been taken off so maybe that's what has to be done.

  • Eric
    2018-06-25 11:32:08
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    It's an absolute IRS scam when I asked them about it they use terrible language and then hang up on me. I called back seven times and apparently my number's been taken off so maybe that's what has to be done.

  • Teresa
    2018-06-25 11:31:26
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    Didn't leave a message.

  • Anonymous
    2018-06-25 11:28:40
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    Received a very expensive knee brace in the mail from a Matawan HME Inc that my "senior" parents didn't order. Turns out that Matawan sends the product and bills medicare. They are taking advantage of seniors. Additionally, they are impossible to get in touch with. Very angry!

  • N/A
    2018-06-25 11:28:18
    Call type: scam
    Rating: 0

    left a recorded message on vm in a robotic voice that there are 4 allegations against my name and to call them back before they take legal action.

  • Frank
    2018-06-25 11:25:36
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    IRS scam, left a threatening message. Don't call them back.

  • JD
    2018-06-25 11:25:14
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    Received a call today stating miscalculation on W2-W4 forms and that I will have to go to DC to file a lawsuit against IRS or pay/settle out of court. The person could not provide me any years when the miscalculation took place or educate me on why I would owe the IRS. As I continued to question the representative disconnected the call. Now I can no longer get through the TFN.

  • BC
    2018-06-25 11:24:53
    Call type: scam
    Rating: -5

    left voicemail (obv female comp generated) and started before my voicemail picked up so mid sentence. Seemed like the same as above. all i got was the call us back before your arrested part but probably claimed they were irs too.

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