Scam Watch– Lotteries and Sweepstakes

September 14, 2010
Winning a random sweepstakes or lottery drawing through a company located in Canada after your information was chosen out of a computer database sounds like a welcome surprise to most of us. Keep in mind that even though the lottery letters and emails you receive may look realistic, you should think twice before sending money to an unknown person or company. BBB urges you to exercise caution when dealing with any lottery or sweepstakes solicitation received via email, postal mail, or phone.  

Private and foreign lotteries are illegal in the US.  In order to participate in any foreign lottery or sweepstakes, you would have to enter the lottery yourself by traveling to the country of origin.  Watch out for lottery and sweepstakes solicitations that ask for an upfront fee to cover taxes or processing.  The only money owed upon winning a lottery would be paid directly to the IRS and not the lottery company.  

To determine if a solicitation you’ve received is a scam, look for postmarks out of Canada, misspelled words, unfamiliar or foreign company names, and verify a company’s participation if the solicitation claims a certain familiar business is affiliated.  If you receive foreign lottery materials, make of a copy of all contents and return it to your local postmaster or visit the Postal Inspectors website to file a complaint.