In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 148,000 reports of fraud involving prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries, up 27 percent from the year before. These scams swindled the unwary out of $255 million.
Stay Alert – Don't Lose Money to a "You've Won" Scam
The initial contact may be a phone call, email, social media notification, or mailer saying you've won some big contest. But there's a catch: The scammers claim you must pay a fee or taxes to get your prize, and they ask for your bank account information, tell you to send money via a wire transfer, or suggest you purchase gift cards and give them the card numbers.
According to the FTC, here are some of the things scammers will do to try to trick you into thinking you really won a prize:
If you're not sure about a contest or the company sending you a prize notification, search online to see if you find anything about them. Type the name with terms like "review," "complaint," or "scam."
- Say they're from the government. Scammers try to look official and 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.
- Use names of organizations you'll recognize. Scammers might pretend to be from well-known companies that run real sweepstakes. But no real sweepstakes company will contact you to ask for money so you can claim a prize.
- Send you a message to get your personal information. You might be told you won a gift card or a discount code to a local store 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.
- Make it seem like you're the only person who won a prize. If your message came by mail, check the postmark on the envelope or postcard. If your "notice" was mailed by bulk rate, it means many other people got the same notice, too.
- 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.
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