Prize and Lottery Scams

What Are Prize and Lottery Scams?

These are notifications that arrive through the mail, by email, or by an unsolicited telephone call and advise the targets that they have won a prize (often for a competition they didn't enter). Victims of lottery scams have lost thousands of dollars responding to demands for payment to cover costs of redeeming prizes when, in all probability, the prize did not exist. Victims rarely, if ever, receive any winnings in return for their cash.

How to Spot Prize and Lottery Scams?

Protect yourself and your money. Look for any of the following elements in the prize or lottery notification:

  • The information advises that you have won a prize, but you did not enter any competition run by the contest promoters.
  • The notification was sent by bulk mail, though it may be personally addressed to you. Thousands of other targets around the world may have received the same notification.
  • The prize promoters ask you to pay a fee (for administration or "processing") in advance.
  • The notice contains an offer to buy shares in a fund that purports to purchase tickets in legitimate overseas lotteries.
  • The offer includes prizes or the opportunity to purchase "exclusive items" (If these items are real, they are often substandard, overpriced, or falsely represented).
  • The notice informs you that claiming the prize might require travel overseas at your own cost.
  • You searched, or had someone search for you, the internet for possible information on the contest, lottery, or prize to determine if legitimate.

The cross-border purchase or sale of lottery tickets is a violation of U.S. law. Given that these scams are generally operated outside the United States, victims have very little recourse to recover losses.