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How To Spot Powerball And Other Lottery Prize Scams

Posted by Jen Rossi on Jan 14, 2016 4:26:29 PM

3.jpg This could be a scammer's chance for a big pay day

There is a lot of excitement around the lottery-especially when the pot gets unusually large… It can be tempting to join in with others buying tickets, checking news sources for reports of winners, sharing your excitement on social media, and otherwise taking part in the excitement of lotto-mania.

With dreams of dollar signs, you may even let your guard down. BUT just like during holidays, after natural disasters, and following many other major news events- the lottery can bring out the con artists, hackers, and social engineering tactics in troves… Think of it as a scammer’s chance for a big pay day.

Some top tips include:

Do not buy a ticket from someone

Tickets can be counterfeit and then you are left with a worthless scrap of paper. You should only purchase tickets from an authorized lottery retailer. Also do not fall for scams including cashing a ticket for someone who says they cannot legally receive a prize for some reason.

Remember to sign your lottery ticket when you purchase it.

Keep your ticket in a safe place away from heat and sunlight- ie: not visible in your car, on your office desk, or shared area.

You cannot play or win an unexpected price in an international lottery

It is illegal to play a foreign lottery in the United States.

Never give your credit card, social security, passport, driver’s license, or bank account numbers to anyone promising prizes.

Ask lots of questions. Do not provide payment to release a prize or personal information to confirm your identity to an unknown person for your prize.

Be suspicious of “urgent” or “act quickly” solicitations

Scammers know how powerful this can work on targets. Your ticket will include information about the length of time in which a prize may be claimed.

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

‘Nuff Said.

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How To Play The Lottery And Avoid Lottery Scams


Safely Check Your Lottery Ticket

You can look up winning numbers on the website printed on your ticket or call the number on your ticket to verify numbers.

Do Not Search Online For Winning Lottery Numbers On Unknown Or Unofficial Websites

Third party websites or ads could lead you to a malicious website. Once there, you may accidentally install a virus on your computer. Alternatively, you may start being tracked and targeted by advertising exchange technology making you susceptible to more spammy messages or lures.

Lottery Scams Via Email

Do not open emails from senders that you do not know or would not expect communication from. They may claim to have the winning numbers or a link to winning lottery numbers.

If you receive an email about unclaimed funds or a prize urging you to call to speak with a representative to claim your prize, it is a scam. These emails can be very convincing, even using official logos, trademarks, and link to legitimate websites.

Always follow these rules regarding email social engineering scams from our Social Engineering 101 Blog Post.

Never Pay Lottery Organizations For Supposed Winnings, Fees, Or Taxes

You would never have to pay taxes or a fee to a lottery for the delivery of a prize. You would also not be required to pay taxes or delivery fees to an organization that sends you a winnings check in the mail.

A common mail and phone scam involves sending a “winners notification” or even a check to a target with the goal of having money sent via

  • wire transfer
  • cash
  • money order
  • prepaid debit/ gift card

Their instructions would be to send money with a promise to release of the rest of the prize. Alternatively, the money is meany to pay the taxes/ fees for the prize.

Some checks sent to targets  may actually be able to be cashed at a bank- with targets only to find out that they have been scammed when the check bounces. Never deposit a check that you are not expecting or claims to be a prize or lottery winnings from an unknown organization.



The Targets Of Lottery Scams

The people behind these tricks have no shame. They will hone in on people that they see as ideal targets- someone who may be down on their luck, in need of public assistance, disability or unemployment benefit recipients, individuals receiving long-term medical care, or even homes that may have had a recent death in the family.

These people are found by signing up for lottery and gambling newsletters and discussion sites, people who buy medical equipment for personal use, use private ambulance services or other transportation providers, support groups, newspaper obituaries or stories, and numerous other ways. This is not to say that the providers of these services or information are involved with the scam, or have always provided your information to con artists. Hackers and scammers find ways to get the information that they want- whether legally or illegally.

When there are large lottery jackpots, potential players could even be considered a large enough group to go after. Hacking into a website, ad exchange, user group, websites, or email accounts could be a great way to get in front of a large enough audience to have their lure seen. This offer may seem very relevant and enticing to enough of the viewers to have an impact.

Other ways of catching potential targets could include

  • Setting up a fraudulent website
  • Sending out an email blast to a generic list
  • setting up a fraudulent or malicious social media account
  • placing random cold calls

With so many people playing, it is a good chance that someone on a random list that would have bought a ticket and may listen to their message -and do whatever asked to get their winnings or find out if their ticket is a winner.

It is fun to dream about how we would use our lottery winnings- even develop a strategy for playing. Just be sure to be vigilant with your personal information and stay savvy to the tricks and schemes of hackers, con artists, and social engineering tactics.

One last piece of advice: Be ALERT


Ask Questions

Listen Carefully

Educate Yourself

Refuse To Be Pressured

Tell The Authorities


Helpful Resources:

Scammers Use Memory Loss To Prey On The Elderly (News Story From Komo News.com)

Federal Trade Commission  Phone 1- 877-FTC-HELP

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Cente

If you receive a call or letter and don’t know who to contact, call your local police department. There may be others in your community being targeted as well.

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Topics: Safety At Home, Technology