Fake lotteries and sweepstakes are big business for scammers. People continue to fall for these scams because few of us can resist the appeal of winning something for nothing, or at least for very little. That's the part of human nature that keeps lotteries in business and it's also what keeps lottery scammers in business. Lottery scams were among the top ten scams of 2011.
Typically in these scams, a person receives a phone call, email, letter or fax with news that a large sum of money has been won. The scammers often claim to represent a familiar sweepstakes, like Publishers Clearing House, or a trusted authority, like the BBB. They often ask for your banking information so they can "deposit your winnings."
Fake lotteries and sweepstakes usually ask that you pay some fees or taxes in advance of receiving your prize. You're typically either asked to send a money order to cover the fees or the crooks front you the money in the form of a check. Of course, once you deposit that check and send the money back to them, you'll find out that the check is counterfeit. And you'll have to repay your bank any funds you withdrew.
Consumers are now reporting that they got these winning messages via text message on their cell phones. Recent texts appear to come from Wal-Mart or Best Buy, who both disavow any connection with the text messages.
If you receive one of these texts:
Lottery and Sweepstakes Tips: