If You Didn't Enter, You Probably Didn't Win

October 02, 2012

GMM: Money Matters : MyFoxMEMPHIS.com

Nancy Crawford with the BBB talks about fees for claiming winnings and scammers using text messages to contact you about fake winnings on Fox 13's Good Morning Memphis show.

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:

  • Don't click on any links.
  • Forward the text to the GSMA's centralized spam-reporting service and follow the instructions they give.
  • You can contact your cell phone carrier to block the number the text came from, but scammers frequently change the originating number.
  • If you responded and feel that you may have compromised your personal information, contact the FTC at ftc.gov for tips on identity theft.
  • Contact your BBB at 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754 if you have questions about this or other scams in your area.

Lottery and Sweepstakes Tips:

  • If you didn't enter the sweepstakes or buy a lottery ticket, you probably didn't win.
  • The only legal lotteries in the US are the official state-run lotteries. Foreign lotteries are illegal.
  • Legitimate lotteries/sweepstakes will notify you via certified mail and will take out taxes before sending the winnings to you.
  • Never wire money to in response to an unsolicited offer or to a person or organization you are unfamiliar with.
  • Check out any unsolicited offer with your BBB.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.