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How To Spot Lottery Scams

June 24, 2024

It typically starts with a phone call, email or letter stating, “You’re a Winner!” We’re talking about “Lottery Scams” that, according to the most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing $301 million to this kind of fraud.

Here are some ways to spot a sweepstakes or lottery scam, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission:

  1. Don’t pay to get a prize. Real prizes are free. Anyone who asks you to pay a fee for ‘taxes,’ ‘shipping and handling charges,’ or ‘processing fees’ to get your prize, is a scammer. Stop and walk away.”
  2. Don’t give your financial information. There is absolutely no reason to ever give your bank account or credit card number to claim a prize. If anyone asks for it, it’s a scam.”
  3. Don’t give your personal information. Scammers hope you’ll click on links that will take your personal information or download malware on your device. Delete the message without clicking on the links and don’t respond.”

There are plenty of other important warning signs that you should pay attention to when it comes to a contest or lottery, and lots of great resources that can help you determine if a lottery or contest is a scam.

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) points out the following red flag: you get a notification that you’ve won a prize/lottery/sweepstakes that you don’t recall entering.

The American Bankers Association cautions to not be fooled by the appearance of a check. Scam artists can create some very legitimate looking counterfeit checks and money orders, even if the company name looks real!

So how do you know if a contest or lottery is legit? There are laws in place to help protect consumers against fraudsters, but you have to be aware of those laws to know if someone is breaking the law. Here are some things that marketers MUST do by law, according to the Federal Trade Commission, when it comes to contests, sweepstakes and lotteries:

  • It is illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to increase your odds of winning.
  • Sweepstakes mailings must say you don’t have to pay to participate. Contest mailings may not claim you are a winner unless you’ve actually won a prize and fake checks must clearly say “nonnegotiable” and “no cash value.”
  • If you are contacted by phone, you have to be informed that entry is free, what the prizes and their value are, your odds of winning, and how to redeem the prize.

With all this valuable information, we understand that there could still be questions and readers may still get duped! However, if you suspect fraud, we encourage you to reach out to our Heartland Bank Fraud Center. We take fraudulent activity very seriously and work every day to keep you, your accounts and personal information safe. If you are an unfortunate victim a scam or fraud, report it immediately at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

This article may reference and link to third party information that has been verified to the best of our abilities. There is no guarantee of accuracy. Heartland Bank does not endorse companies, services, or products referenced in its articles and is not responsible for the content, links, privacy, or security policies of these third parties. Information in the above article may include material from the AARP website (https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/sweepstakes.html), the American Bankers Association (https://www.aba.com/news-research/analysis-guides/5-ways-to-spot-a-lottery-scam) and the Federal Trade Commission (https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/fake-prize-sweepstakes-lottery-scams) and (https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2023/04/are-you-really-lucky-winner-spot-prize-scams)

This content is for informational purposes only. Readers should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific advice from their own counsel.